Barbara Walters' friends and colleagues react to the news of her death at 93

Known for her frank and intimate interviewing style, Walters paved the way for women in broadcast journalism

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published December 31, 2022 8:41AM (EST)

Barbara Walters during the 13th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York. (J. Vespa/WireImage/Getty)
Barbara Walters during the 13th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York. (J. Vespa/WireImage/Getty)

On Friday evening, news began to circulate of Barbara Walters' death at the age of 93, shortly followed by an outpouring of remembrances from fans, friends and colleagues.

Best known in more recent years for creating and hosting the long-running talk show, "The View," which debuted on ABC in 1997, Walters first started her career in broadcast journalism in 1961 at NBC's "Today" show.

In a 2014 interview with The Harvard Gazette, Walters reflected on being one of the first women to make a name for themselves in journalism saying that at the start "she was not allowed to ask any serious questions during interviews she shared with 'Today' host Frank McGee." But through the length of her career, asking the questions that viewers were curious to hear the answers to became her signature.

A quick search on YouTube of "Barbara Walters savage moments" turns out a treasure trove of clips showing Walters sitting with some of the biggest celebrities and political figures in the world, asking them about their deepest and darkest secrets with the same casualness one would ask the time of day. 

"She was the very first person with whom I ever sat for a television interview, and will certainly be my most memorable," said Monica Lewinsky in a post to Twitter on Friday night, making reference to the infamous 1999 interview with Walters in which she was asked, point blank, about her affair with former President Bill Clinton. 

Although Walters often received backlash during her career for asking questions that could be seen as rude or invasive, she was revered for her ability to always "go there," such as in the instance where she told the entire Kardashian family that they had no talent.

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Walters' style was unique in a way that made her easy pickings for parody. Comedian and original "SNL" superstar Gilda Radner did a frequent sketch on the show as Baba Wawa — a riff on both Walters herself, as well as her distinct way of speaking.

In 2014, Walters appeared on "SNL" to parody herself, alongside newly exited ensemble member Cecily Strong.

"What an honor it was to see my groundbreaking career in journalism reduced to a cartoon character with a ridiculous voice," Walters quipped in the sketch.

In Walters' final taping of "The View" in 2014, the stage filled with powerful female journalists such as Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer who all, in part, owed their careers to her carving a path through the male dominated industry.

"Without Barbara Walters there wouldn't have been me—nor any other woman you see on evening, morning, and daily news," Winfrey wrote in an Instagram post on Friday evening. 

"The world of journalism has lost a pillar of professionalism, courage, and integrity. Barbara Walters was a trailblazer and a true pro," Dan Rather said in his own remembrance on Twitter. "She outworked, out-thought, and out-hustled her competitors. She left the world the better for it. She will be deeply missed. RIP."

Even Meghan McCain, who bumped heads with Walters on "The View," along with just about everyone else on the show, had kind words on Walters' passing.

"Barbara Walters will always be known as a trail blazer," McCain said on Twitter. "Her hard hitting questions & welcoming demeanor made her a household name and leader in American journalism. Her creation of "The View" is something I will always be appreciative of. Rest in peace, you will forever be an icon."

Walters death comes after a decline in her health that led to her retreating from the public eye after parting from "The View." 

In a statement from Walters' spokesperson, Cindi Berger, given to CNN she says, "Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones. She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists but for all women."

By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere.

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Barbara Walters Broadcast Journalism Obituary The View Today Show