Barbara Walters is an American television commentator known for her many years as the first woman network news anchor, on ABCNews starting in 1976. Previously she had spent 15 years at NBC's The Today Show, where she began as a writer but within a year became a reporter-at-large, developing, writing and editing her own reports and interviews. In 1974, NBC officially designated her as the program's first female co-host. She is also known for her years on the newsmagazine 20/20 where she joined host Hugh Downs in 1979 and has been sole host since 1999. More recently she is seen as co-host on the daytime women's talk forum The View, of which she is also co-owner and co-executive producer.
She follows the line of "personality journalism" that was a specialty of Edward R. Murrow and is known for her "scoop" interviews, such as the Monica Lewinsky interview that won the highest ratings of any journalist interview. In November 1977 she achieved a joint interview with Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Her interviews with world leaders include Russia's Boris Yeltsin, China's Jiang Zemin, the UK's Margaret Thatcher, Cuba's Fidel Castro, as well as Indira Gandhi, Václav Havel, Moammar Qaddafi, the Shah of Iran and King Hussein of Jordan. Not all her interviewees remain dry-eyed, and critics accuse Barbara Walters of pumping for the ratings-generating public tears.
Her Barbara Walters Specials are top-rated, and since 1993 her year-end Ten Most Fascinating People offers a review of the year's most prominent newsmakers.
She was the daughter of Lew Walters, who owned the famed New York nightclub The Latin Quarter, and who was among other things a broadway producer (He produced the Ziegfeld Follies of 1943), and his wife Dena.
Barbara Walters' biographies often give her date of birth as September 25, 1931. That this is false can be demonstrated by making reference to the 1930 Federal Census for the Enumeration District 41-184, where her family is shown on page 198, with father Louis Walters aged 34, wife Dena Walters, aged 33, Jacqueline, daughter, aged 3 years and 11 months, and lastly Barbara, aged 6 months. This was recorded on April 21/22, 1930, so Barbara would have been born around October 1929. This is compatible with her asserted date of September 25, 1931 minus 2 years.
Barbara Walters was widely ridiculed in 1981, when during an interview with actress Katharine Hepburn, Walters posed the infamous question, "If you were a tree, what kind would you be?" to the astonishment of audiences everywhere. Her idiosyncratic speech inspired Gilda Radner's "Baba Wawa" impersonation on Saturday Night Live. She has been spoofed on the show by many comediennes, including Cheri Oteri and Rachel Dratch.
Walters is the adoptive mother ofone daughter.