When Barbara Walters ends her 50-year career of inviting liberals to promote their progressive causes “de jure” on Friday, the New York Daily News said she will be “wrapping up a half century in which she became one of the most influential and recognizable news and talk personalities on television.”
Born in 1929, Walters (her family’s original Jewish surname was Warmwasser) received her BA in English from Sarah Lawrence College and immediately began working at a small advertising agency in New York City. A year later she unofficially began her career as a researcher for NBC. Officially, her career began in 1962 when she began writing and producing for NBC’s The Today Show with Hugh Downs.
In 1976 she moved to ABC and from 1979 to 2004 produced and co-hosted ABC’s newsmagazine 20/20 while also contributing as an anchor, reporter and correspondent for ABC News.
Her big opportunity came in 1997 when she created a co-hosted ABC’s The View, a daily television show with an all-female panel discussing current events. She as much created the women’s lib movement as rode the crest of its wave ever since.
She had the ability to invite reticent world leaders to come to be interviewed by her, often disclosing bits and pieces of their lives that otherwise wouldn’t have made headline news. Sometimes those bits and pieces would better have been left dormant.
A prime example is her ability to tickle the ears of the American public with outrageous disclosures best left alone. Her most popular interview occurred on March 3, 1999, when her interview of Monica Lewinsky was seen by a record 74 million people, hungry to hear tasty and juicy details of her tawdry relationship with President Clinton. Walters had the ability to make such disclosures appear legitimate and newsworthy when, in ordinary times, they would have only appeared in newsstand rags. In a word, Walters raised the level of yellow journalism to its present level of acceptability.
Her goal was not to raise the level of journalism but to reduce it to the least common denominator, to the point where anyone with a liberal point of view or a progressive agenda was welcome to express them on her show. Her goal was to “create a place where guests of any persuasion could feel they would get a fair hearing in a cordial atmosphere.”
As her show gained in popularity, all manner of socialist self-seekers arrived at the studio to partake of that cordial atmosphere: Barack Obama, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, Fidel Castro, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Hugo Chavez and Bashar al-Assad.
As a facilitator for the progressive agenda, Walters has been rewarded generously, both financially and politically. Her million-dollar-a-month income pales alongside her almost endless list of awards: just since 2006 she and her show have been nominated for Best Talk Show/Host seven times, and in 2009 she received the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host (along with other hard-left liberals Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar).
Her intentions were deliberate. In her autobiography Audition Walters explained her purpose:
In the early years … I was sort of a glorified tea pourer … but times have changed.
Women in television no longer have to begin as I did, and I’m happy for whatever small contribution I’ve made toward that change.
Walters didn’t escape being parodied, even from liberal friends. In a moment of candor, Walters described being upset by a parody by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live in 1976, based on her decision to move from NBC to ABC:
The comedian Gilda Radner chose that year to present her caricature of me—Baba Wawa—on Saturday Night Live. Audiences found her mimicry of my pronunciation of l and r as w hysterically funny.
I found it extremely upsetting … But everyone else loved Gilda’s impersonation.
“Hewwo! This is Baba Wawa hewe to say fawewell,” Gilda said one Saturday night. “This is my wast moment on NBC. I want to wemind you to wook fow me awong with Hawwy Weasoneh weeknights at seven o’cwock.
“I want to take this oppohtunity to apowogize to NBC,” she continued. “I don’t wike weaving. Pwease twust me—it’s not sowuh gwapes, but, rathaw, that anotheh netwohk wecognizes in me a gweat tawent for dewivering welevant news stowies with cwystal cwahity to miwwions of Americans. It’s the onwy weason I’m weaving.”
Walters announced one year ago that she would be retiring from her form of fawning journalism in May 2014 which, according to incisive and blunt Alex Pareene, allowed the media plenty of time to create “aggrandizing specials” in her honor. Pareene described her then as
A national icon and a pioneer, and probably as responsible as any other living persona for the ridiculous and sorry state of American television journalism…
Her entire public life has been an extended exercise in sycophancy and unalloyed power worship.
Next week her place will no doubt be filled with another self-absorbed progressive journalist interested in changing and lowering the culture, but no one did it as well as Baba Wawa.