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Walters, who died Dec. 30 at the age of 93, co-created The View in 1997. On Tuesday, the first new episode following her passing, the ABC talk show dedicated its hour to paying tribute to the life and legacy of Walters with both the current and past hosts who have shared the table with Walters.
Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, Sunny Hostin, Sara Haines and Alyssa Farah Griffin were joined by Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Debbie Matenopoulos, Lisa Ling, Sherri Sheperd and Elisabeth Haselbeck either in-person or virtually. Behar, Vieira, Jones and Matenopoulos were on the original panel with Walters, who spent 17 years on the show before her 2014 departure and retirement from journalism (though she would go on to conduct several interviews).
At its launch, The View was described by Walters as a talk show featuring four or five women “of different backgrounds, different generations, and different opinions” who would discuss the topics of the day, mixing humor with intelligent debate. On Tuesday, the female journalists who have helped to carry on that legacy celebrated Walters for paving that path.
When opening the show, Goldberg called Walters “the reason we’re all sitting here, really.” Adding, “If not for her, I don’t know where most of us would be.”
“We knew her better than anyone, I think,” noted Behar, who said “she defied sexism and ageism” and recalled the skillful way the legendary interviewer often went “into the jaws of the lion.” Launching The View at age 68, Behar called her “the original role model for everyone. She was not just a friend to us, she was really one of a kind and very important to the industry.”
Hostin said Walters always “validated my opinion” and Griffith called her a “trailblazer” and a “pioneer.” Haines said, “For someone who gets paid to talk, what she did so well was listen.”
All of the current co-hosts marveled at Walters’ tenacity amid sexism and ageism. “What she endured, to then make a table for more people to sit at, I think that’s when you sit here and say… I will be forever grateful that she made a seat for us,” added Haines.
Behar shared Walters’ secret to being “the hardest-working person” in television: “I asked, ‘How come you always get the interview?’ She says, ‘Because I don’t go to the bathroom.'”
Amid laughs and tears and before cutting to the first break, Goldberg said, “There was nobody like her. There isn’t anyone like her and like all firsts, she’s the first. There are many of us duplicates, but there will never be another Barbara Walters.”
The show continued by having the past co-hosts come on to share their memories, before running clips from some of Walters’ most iconic interviews and The View moments. A common theme from the women was how Walters served as their “TV mom,” and supported their professional ambitions while also forging lifelong personal relationships.
Vieira said she initially took The View audition because, after 20 years in the news business, she wanted to spend more time at home with her three young children. “I find myself in this hotel room with you ladies and Barbara Walters. By the time the audition was done, I just wanted in. … It opened the door to so many opportunities and it made me realize, you don’t have to stay on one path in life. … And I owe that to Barbara Walters.”
Behar noted how, in its early days, Walters pushed the show on a grassroots level, going door-to-door in a campaign to get the show on more channels. Once the show took off, Walters quickly became known for more than her glass ceiling and groundbreaking journalism.
Meredith recalled her wild sense of humor, particularly her love for dressing up for Halloween and the opportunity to let loose: “She could be anything she wanted to be.” Behar shared how she loved a dirty joke, “one in particular that I can’t tell [on TV].”
Star spoke about how Walters introduced her to the Manhattan social scene. “She could tell you everything about everybody in the room. She had either interviewed them, done a story on them, heard a story on them. And she could dish with the best of them,” she said. “Everybody knows her as the brilliant, iconic journalist … but we got to dish with this woman in ways that other people will never, ever appreciate. She was the best gossiper. She had all the tea.”
Hasselbeck spoke about experiencing waves of grief since Walters’ passing while describing the close relationship she and Walters had despite their often disagreements from opposite sides of the aisle. “She and I had a layered relationship,” she recalled of their 10 years on the air together, and 10-year friendship after the show. “She was my TV mom, my mentor… she was contagiously, compassionately curious. We know how well she researched and she gave her guests a chance to express themselves in a safe way, and we all benefit from that.”
“She gave me a chance,” she continued, noting that after 10 years of “debating my boss on opposite of issues,” she always “put our relationship over the roles that we had.”
Ling recalled joining the show and the “surreal” experience sitting next to Walters, whom she called a mother figure: “I believe she thought of us as her kids, her daughters.”
“My entire life, all I wanted to do was make her proud,” said Matenopoulos in tears when speaking about the impact she has had on women in television.
Rosie O’Donnell, who co-hosted The View with Walters from 2006 to 2007 and again in 2014, later said on social media that she was invited to attend the tribute episode, but declined because of her grief. “They invited me, but I wasn’t able to make it. You know, I didn’t want to be in a big group of people. I was worried that I would get upset and um, didn’t want to do that, so, there you go,” she said in a video posted on Instagram. She had previously paid tribute on social media.
The tribute episode ended with a clip from Walters’ own signoff when she left The View, and an image of her empty chair. Of her legacy and decision to leave, Walters said at the time, “How do you create a television show called The View that puts together these wonderful women, all of them over the years, who have shared their contrasting opinions? And finally, how proud when I see all of the young women who are making and reporting the news. If I did anything to help that happen, that’s my legacy.”
Along with co-creating and co-hosting The View, Walters was the first female co-host of the Today show and the first evening news anchorwoman in broadcast history. She is survived by her daughter, Jacqueline Dena Guber.
Jan. 4, 8:25 a.m. Updated to include Rosie O’Donnell explaining her absence.
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