THR's 35 Most Powerful People in Media
It’s not easy to get Walters to concede that she might be a legend. “I do think people know I do my homework and don’t come into any interview with an agenda,” says Walters, an octogenarian who has enjoyed an unmatched, zeitgeist-y run of more than 50 years in entertainment and hard news.
Predating Oprah, Walters has been making a wide range of personalities, from entertainment to business to politics, squirm, confess and cry (notably drawing 48.5 million viewers for her Monica Lewinsky interview in 1999) since the ’70s.
After 15 years on NBC’s Today, where she began as a writer, she was officially designated its first female co-host in 1974. Walters followed that with 25 years as host of ABC’s 20/20, then anchor of ABC Evening News — another female first — during which she developed signature lighter fare via her annual Oscar night and 10 Most Fascinating People specials.
In the past decade, she has been one of the less confrontational voices on ABC’s The View but takes pains to emphasize that it’s secondary to her role as ABC News contributor.
In December, she sat down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following nine months of his bloody crackdowns of revolutionary protest. It was the only interview he granted to a Western outlet, and Walters was tough as nails. (Example: “Much of the world regards you as a dictator and a tyrant. What do you say to that?”) Says Walters, “We couldn’t let anyone think the interview was a softball.”