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Barbara Walters death: her best 5 and 1 worst interview.


With Barbara Walters dead, we can finally ask: What kind of tree was she?

Walters, to put it another way, was the razor-sharp reporter who got Katharine Hepburn to declare, “I’ve lived my life as a man” in the decidedly homophobic 1980s. Or was she the empty-blouse TV host who sarcastically asked Hepburn in the same interview? “If you think you’re a tree, what kind of tree are you?” The expected question is her obituary.

Below, we mainly discuss the former. Empathetic, astute, prepared and relentless, Barbara Walters was the crowning tree of journalism. At least that’s how she met her when she wasn’t recording a movie promo for Ninja Turtles.

Making Oprah Winfrey cry isn’t exactly a journalistic coup. Crying (more precisely, making an audience cry) is definitely Winfrey’s raison d’etre. Still, the first moment an interviewee’s voice cracks is a litmus test for journalists. A bad reporter might get offended and change the subject. A villain will want to act out the moment for cheap feelings.

A very good reporter, Walters demonstrates her knowledge in a 2010 interview with Winfrey, who broke down in tears while talking about her friend Gayle King. Note Zu’s textbook ability to take Winfrey from the mundane to the metaphysical: from remembering how he helped King buy a car for his birthday, to 33 understanding the meaning of friendship. (at which point the tears begin), and finally to Walter’s finishing blow: “Now tell me why you are crying.”

Perspectives | Barbara Walters, Women’s ‘Glorious Possibilities’ in a Man’s World

Winfrey: On my 42nd birthday, I was on my way to the mall and saw a Bentley parked at a car dealership, so I stopped and bought a Bentley. It was her 42nd birthday, so we were able to do it. Gail is negotiating a discount on her Bentley at a car dealership!She was more excited than I was when she left with her Bentley.

Walters: Many women have best friends. Few people have close friends like you. Please explain that friendship to me.

Winfrey: Phew. all right. Hmm. [10-second pause.] She’s the mother I never had. She is the sister that everyone looks up to. She is the friend everyone deserves. I don’t know anyone better. [Raises hand and repeats:] I don’t know anyone better.

Walters: Why are you crying?

Oprah: [Wiping eyes] Shoot, I’m going to cry here. Maybe she’s about to cry because she’s thinking about things she’s never told her. [To backstage, abruptly:] Please give me a tissue!

A good interviewer knows it’s not his job to throw a lifeline when a subject starts to get upset. Walters perfectly demonstrated her maxim in 1987 when she pressed Scottish actor Sean Connery about past comments advocating slapping women under certain circumstances.

“Do you remember?” Walters asked Connery with modest disdain. “Yeah, I didn’t like it.”

Surprisingly, Connery doubled down and stated that his opinion had not changed. Walters remained in disbelief, but he was unfazed. For the most part, she repeated Connery’s allegations back to him or asked follow-up questions that were clipped to get him to continue his story. When he became (with a hint of early sadomasochism), Walters just sat back and was amazed to see the screen icon ignite his legacy in the chair opposite.

The excerpt below begins after Walters sets Connery to self-destruct with a seemingly simple question.

Connery: Well, if you’ve tried everything else and women are pretty good at this, you can’t leave them alone. They want to have the last word and you give them the last word but they are not happy with the last word. . Then I think you’re absolutely right.

Walters: How about a slap?

Connery: Yeah, definitely.

Walters: What if she slaps you back?

Connery: Okay, let’s go into another area. Then maybe she likes it and it becomes something else. No, no, seriously — I think it’s a last resort. He doesn’t do it because he wants to.

Walters: Please wait until this interview is published. You will receive an email.

Years after President Donald Trump’s presidency ended in an anti-constitutional farce, the art of confronting his self-aggrandizing spin remains an imperfect science in journalism schools. Walters, though, was ahead of his time in 1990 when he met with Trump and pressed him over his latest book, Surviving at the Top.

Walters didn’t have time to play softball. She threw her heater out the gate, alluding to Trump’s massive debt at the time, and cheekily suggested that a more appropriate title for the book might have been “Failing at the Top.”

Pulled from a now-all-too-familiar playbook, Mr. Trump quickly slipped into a change of subject. Attacking the “dishonest” press and predicting economic apocalypse through arguments too incoherent to illustrate. Walters, however, was ready to defend her deal of her choice. She calmly told Trump that she had spoken to “several” of his bankers before the interview, and then began to poke holes in the future president’s many logical fallacies.

Walters: Near bankruptcy, bailed out of the bank, skating on thin ice, drowning – is that a businessman to be admired?

TRUMP: You say Barbara you’re “on the brink of bankruptcy,” talk on the brink and listen to people.

Walters: I will speak to your banker.

Trump: Well, that’s fine. And what did they say? It depends on which banker you’re talking to, but what did they say? I think the deal I made is good for everyone. The economy is sluggish. No one knows when the economy is bad. I hear people on Wall Street talking about the possibility of a recession. We are not in recession — we are in recession. Well, when you’re in depression, you gotta go with some kind of punch. You gotta go see the bank, you gotta deal with people , you have to work things out. And there are many. Unfortunately, it’s just me that people write about. I am not writing about other people.

Walters: You are in a little more debt than most people. You are $3 billion in debt.

Trump: I also have a little more assets than most people. It’s an interesting phenomenon. I have many friends. They are negotiating with banks like I am. I always tell them It never appears on the front pages of various garbage tabloids. ”

Walters: They weren’t on the front page to begin with. [Gestures to the wall adorned with magazine covers featuring Trump’s face.] They don’t have 50 magazine covers behind them.

An interviewer’s primary responsibility is to act as a conduit between the interviewee and the audience. When Walters spoke with the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” crew for her 2011 “10 Most Attractive People in Her” special on ABC, she drew public outcry ahead of the segment. Admitted. “I’ve never heard more outrage and dismay than when the people you were about to meet announced they were on our list,” she said.

In the excerpt below, Walters honored audience skepticism by confronting sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian and their mother, Kris Jenner, about their lack of discernible skills. and Chloe introduced the concept of their incompetence in such an endearingly candid manner that they seemed almost eager to agree that their family actually had no talent.

Walters: People often say that you’re all famous for being famous. you really don’t act you don’t sing you don’t dance You have no talent – forgive me!

Khloe Kardashian: But we’re still entertaining people.

Kim Kardashian: I think it’s more difficult to be on reality TV and get people to like you for who you are. So I think there’s definitely a lot more pressure to be famous for being yourself than it is to play a character.

Kourtney Kardashian: But I don’t think it will divide opinion.

Khloe Kardashian: None of us think we’re talented. Likewise, we don’t expect anyone to be able to sing or act.

Disarming interviewees was another skill Walters exemplified under the most uncomfortable circumstances. There may be no more striking example than his 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky. In this interview, Lewinsky and Bill forced the former White House intern into self-examination just months after his sexual relationship with President Clinton went public, leading to the first impeachment of the president. in 130 years.

In that “20/20” interview, about 74 million Americans watched Walters attack Lewinsky with a combination of candid questioning and timely levity. In the excerpt below, the host brings up a particularly lascivious rumor, professing such amazement that Lewinsky can only grin and tackle it head-on.

Walters: You found yourself alone with Bill Clinton in the Chief of Staff’s office, and you lifted the back of your jacket to reveal your underwear to the President of the United States. where did you get the nerve? I mean, who does it?

Lewinsky: I think you know, as anyone who’s ever been in a cheating situation knows, it’s dancing. It’s like one person does something and you meet him and raise the stakes? And that was how our affair relationship was going. I know it’s been done. I’m not going to demonstrate, but take my word for it, it’s a small, subtle, flirtatious gesture, and that’s who I am.

Walters: Did you mean “I am available”?

Lewinsky: Well, “I’m interested too. I’ll play.”

Of course, Walters wasn’t perfect. All trees eventually tilt. She was often accused of failing to separate journalism from the celebrity culture that fascinated her: the newspaper, for example, famously dubbed her 2003 interview with Hillary Clinton a “news special her hour-long book plug masquerading as a

Another example: In November of 1990, at what must have been a particularly slow news cycle, Walters and her production crew agreed to visit a film studio in North Carolina. According to the Los Angeles Times, they set up shop in what Walters claimed to viewers to be an “abandoned subway station under the streets of New York” and dressed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We “interviewed” four performers about their work. An upcoming movie sequel to the franchise, ‘The Secret of the Ooze’.

If you have $11.50 to spare, you can read the full text by purchasing the March 1991 edition of TV Guide on eBay. Better yet, months after the interview was taped, it aired on Oscar night, three weeks after a group of Los Angeles Police Department officers half-killed Rodney King one-on-one. With that in mind, skim the following dialogue, which is mostly monosyllabic and strangely racially obsessed. of the worst episodes of racial violence the country has yet seen.

Walters: And now, as promised, I’ll take you to an abandoned subway station beneath the streets of New York, the home of the Half-Shell movie heroes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

[Donatello half-rises from a soiled couch and kisses Walters’s hand]

Walters: Charming! you’re all i’ve heard

Michelangelo: Hi Dudet. i love the dress

Walters: Thank you very much. and Leonardo.

Leonardo: Yeah! Nice to meet you, Mr. Walter. mind, body and spirit.

Walters: Yes, thank you. He’s a little too much at times, right?

Walters: Hi Raphael. [Changing subject:] No one has been nominated for an Oscar. why do you think that is?

Michelangelo: Prejudice, I think. They don’t like green people.

Walters: Do you think it’s because you’re a little green and slimy and cold? Do you think they’re anti-turtles? [Offended crosstalk.]

Walters: Guys, the first movie was a huge success. Now you’ve got another one, and it looks like it’s going to be a big smash again. Hmm. Do you know who your parents were?

[What appears to be saline tear fluid begins to squirt through Donatello’s eye holes onto Walters’s blouse while she laughs or pretends to laugh hysterically.]

Donatello: Somebody help me, I’m dehydrated