Barbara Walters: TV news legend who sunk male chauvinism

If there’s one tough cookie worth a eulogy it’s Barbara Walters: iconic glass ceiling-breaker for female journalists in, sorry to say, still deeply misogynistic newsrooms.

The sunset for her on Friday, but I can’t shake the irony of the start of fireworks that night rather than celebrating Pele.

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With her coiffed pouf, she would cut to the chase within the first five questions. She interrupted a young Donald Trump every time he interrupted her, with a “so you’re bankrupt; I spoke to your bankers”.

She was a terrier not letting Sean Connery get away with “a woman sometimes needs a good slap” until he conceded “I’m a male chauvinist” – but dropping the “pig” she labelled him as.

Why, she even taught the Queen of Talk a lesson by reducing Oprah Winfrey to tears just after bragging she bought a Bentley “because I could” – a lesson Winfrey learned well. She became the Queen of Tears and an instant hit, making millions, using “ol’ Barb’s tactics”.

But one of the top Walters Wallows must be the one with US ex-president Bill Clinton’s flossie, Monica Lewinsky. She of the infamous cigar vagina dialogues; she of the infamous stained blue dress “with
his DNA”.

As Walters asked her – ever exasperated – “Didn’t you just think to dry-clean the dress?” “Why did you even hang on to it?”

“Funny story,” Lewinsky giggled. And then you realise she means it… funny story she and her 10 friends giggled over.

The giggling was Walters’ strength: “You showed your thong to the president of the United States. Why?” And she waits for the answer… Giggling: “It was a game…”

Walters: “Did you have no shame? No self-respect? Did you ever think of Hilary? Kelsey?”

Bullet-through-the-heart questions not one of her guests ever refused to answer. But she never totally rubbished them; always gave them a way out: fire the accusation – wait and listen… Most redeemed themselves, eventually. Some not.

And that’s her master stroke… That’s why Lewinsky paid a heartfelt tribute to Walters on Twitter 10 years later. Because Walters was a #MeToo. Not because she was sexually harassed – that we know of, although I’m sure she had it tough in a man’s world – but because of exactly this reason: she took on the male-dominated press room, ate them up and spat them out as the first female anchor for ABC news.

And she only went after the big guns.

Tough cookie. Walters interviewed every sitting US president and first lady, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. She also interviewed Joe Biden, though not when he was president (she was 90 at the time, just saying).

She opened the door for Fox anchor Megyn Kelly and co-anchor Gretchen Carlson, faced with their heels, skirts and the occasional wandering hand, to truly start the powerful #MeToo.

So don’t fly Lewinsky past any respecting woman as signing up for the old and tired, but still relevant, movement.

The woke ones will never convince me Lewinsky represents that. Young, innocent, yes. But after two affairs with much older, married men, she was old and wise; ready to bring any man to a fall. And that non-decorum few women should identify with.

To Barbara Walters, I’ll lift my glass though: #MeToo…

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