Walters wiped away tears at the top of the show, which opened with a montage of career highlights including her ABC interviews with a range of headline-makers from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to Monica Lewinsky and narrated by the trailblazing TV icon herself. “I wasn’t beautiful,” she said, adding: “I have trouble pronouncing my ‘Rs’ … I still do.”
Afterward, the 83-year-old Walters — surrounded by View panelists Sherri Shepherd, Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck — exclaimed: “I have been on television for over … 50 years!” With wistful remembrance, she called her storied history on network television “joyful,” “challenging” and “occasionally bumpy.”
Walters said she will continue to executive produce The View along with Bill Geddie but would not appear on “any show.” But she noted: “I will come back — I’m not going into the sunset.”
Said Walters: “I’m perfectly healthy. … And this is what I want to do.”
Sitting in the front row of the studio audience: Ben Sherwood, President, ABC News; Anne Sweeney, Co-chairman, Disney Media Networks; president, Disney/ABC Television Group; Paul Lee, President, ABC Entertainment; and Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of Disney, ABC’s parent company.
Iger got Walters misty-eyed when he praised the “quality” of her work and said he wasn’t sure anybody would continue to match it.
Addressing the media mogul, who plans to retire in 2015, Walters asked: “What are you gonna do? What are we gonna do?” Well, Iger said, “The two of us love to dance. I saw we go on Dancing With the Stars.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and rapper-actor LL Cool J were among the guests on Monday’s installment of the long-running chatfest, which heads into its 17th season this fall.
“I love you,” Walters told Bloomberg. “Even if you don’t like very tall soft drinks.”
Shepherd called Walters “innovative” and commended her boss for hiring two African-American women as co-hosts on the View panel. Meanwhile, Behar addressed Walters’ remarks that she “wasn’t beautiful,” saying: “I think you were.”
On Sunday night, Walters released a statement through ABC New announcing that she would confirm her retirement on Monday’s edition of The View, the program she launched in 1997.
“I am very happy with my decision and look forward to a wonderful and special year ahead both on The View and with ABC News,” she said. “I created The View and am delighted it will last beyond my leaving it.”