Barbara Walters, the late trailblazing journalist, put ABC’s 20/20 on the map and co-created The View. Throughout her iconic career, which spanned 50 years and 12 Emmys awards, she interviewed royals, stars, presidents and Hollywood stars. She died Friday at 93 in New York and is survived by her adopted daughter Jacqueline.
Walters, who was known for making guests cry, was a broadcasting fixture and credited the fact that she changed high schools three times for learning to make friends and asking questions.
“I was never in awe of celebrities because they worked for my father,” Walters said. “I was curious. Even today, if I go out to dinner, and I’m sitting next to someone, and I ask questions, they’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re interviewing me.’”
The glass-ceiling-shattering newswoman made history as the first female co-host of the Today show and the first $1 million a year news anchor.
During her decades-long career, Walters interviewed Fred Astaire, Ingrid Bergman, Truman Capote, Mamie Eisenhower, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Candice Bergen, Diana Ross, Monica Seles, Michael Jackson, Roseanne Barr, Tom Cruise, Eddie Murphy, George Clooney, Kate Gosselin and Honey Boo-Boo, to name just a few.
The icon often caused her interviewees to well up by asking about their childhoods “because that’s revealing, and they’d remember a parent or someone who’d died,” Walters explained. “That was before every celebrity getting out of rehab would cry. Now I say, ‘Don’t you dare cry!’”
See 10 of her big-ticket interviews, including Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin and Monica Lewinsky, below.
The New York Times reported in 1999 that Walters’ interview with the former White House intern “attracted an average of 48.5 million viewers, and an estimated 70 million people watched all or part of the two-hour program, in about 33.2 million homes.”
Lewinsky, the intern caught in a sex scandal that nearly destroyed Bill Clinton’s marriage and presidency, answered Walters’ grilling questions, including sleeping with married men and her struggles with weight.
Walters directly asked Lewinsky, “You showed the president your thong underwear. Where did you get the nerve? I mean — who does that?” she said. She also asked the 25-year-old: “Where was your self-respect, where was your self-esteem?”
Mike Tyson and Robin Givens
“Everywhere I went the next day, people asked me about it,” Walters said to ABC News of her interview with Robin Givens and her then-husband, Mike Tyson.
Walters has also cited this would be the interview she would want a person, who had never seen her work before to watch.
She didn’t shy away from deeply personal questions, including asking Givens if Tyson hit her.
Givens’ response: “He shakes. He pushes, he swings. Sometimes I think he’s trying to scare me. There were times when it happened when I thought I could, after, handle it, you know. And just recently I’ve become afraid, I mean very, very much afraid,” was eye-opening to audiences.
Walters interviewed Reeve several times after his 1995 horseback riding accident that left him paralyzed. He chose Walters for his first interview in a striking sit-down, where he confessed he briefly wished he had died.
After he was thrown from a horse, the Superman star fractured his upper cervical vertebra so severely that doctors never thought he would live, much less regain any movement at all or breathe on his own.
“Before the surgery, when I first was first coming out of, you know, consciousness, and you had the thought maybe it’s not worth everybody’s trouble, and I had that thought for maybe 10 minutes,” Reeves told Walters.
“That you wanted to die, pull the plug, whatever?” Walters asked Reeve.
“Yeah, I suggested, maybe I should just check out,” Reeve said. “And Dana, my wonderful, wonderful, wife, said, ‘You’re still you, and I love you.’”
Walters was the first American journalist to interview the Russian president.
She directly asked Putin whether or not he had ever ordered anyone killed, to which he refuted the claim.
“I don’t know whether it would have been possible to prevent these strikes on the United States by the terrorists,” he told 20/20‘s Barbara Walters of the 9/11 attack, “but it was a pity that our special services didn’t get information on time and warn the American people and the American political leadership about the tragedy that came to pass.”
After the Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman homicides made headlines for months in 1996, Walters managed to get Robert Kardashian to sit down with her to discuss the case.
During the interview, Kardashian shockingly said, “I have doubts” about his friend and former client due to the blood evidence.
In a rare interview with Oprah, Walters asked the media mogul to discuss her friendship with Gayle King and rumors about their relationship.
Before shedding tears, Winfrey said she “doesn’t know a better person” than her best friend.
She continued by addressing her sexuality saying, “I’m not a lesbian. I’m not even kind of a lesbian. And the reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I’m lying. That’s number one. Number two: why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life.”
When Barbara Walters interviewed President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, he was making headlines across the country for famously calling President Bush “the devil” in a speech at the United Nations.
In Walters’ usual interview fashion, she asked about the name-calling, to which he replied, “Yes, I call him a devil in the United Nation — That’s true. Another time, I said that he was a donkey just because I think that he is very ignorant.”
Walters was Castro’s first interview with an American journalist. The pair took a boat ride together on the Bay of Pigs and spent 10 days traveling across Cuba. She spent car rides next to him in the passenger seat holding his gun.
Despite the dictator’s status, Walters grilled him just like she would a Hollywood star.
During the interview, Castro claimed Cuba doesn’t have demonstrations and asked, “Why would we need to prevent anything that doesn’t happen at all?” Walters fired back, “But you don’t let it happen! Maybe people might want to protest!”
The trailblazer spent five hours with the dictator, which ultimately garnered her death threats.
After his death, Walters said, “He was charming and fiercely guarded about his private life. He called our interviews ‘fiery debates.’ During our times together, he made clear to me that he was an absolute dictator and that he was a staunch opponent of democracy. I told him that what we most profoundly disagreed on was the meaning of freedom.”
During this interview, Walters asked one of her most comically offbeat questions, “What kind of tree are you?” She garnered a lot of scoffs for the question, but in the interview, it was a natural transition from Hepburn’s comment that she sees herself as a tree. Walters later admitted it was one of her biggest interviewing mistakes.
In an honest interview, DeGeneres talked to Walters about everything from her movie career to her decision to come out. She also opened up about her stepfather sexually abusing her and how she broke through a window one night to get away.