Barbara Walters has promised to retire. But then so did that lip-licking lizard, Larry King. You can't take them at their word.
In my journalism-school days one looked up to the legendary, late Oriana Fallaci. These days, it's mediocrities like Walters and colorectal crusader Katie Couric who're considered cutting-edge clever. And they've sired a new crop of talking coifs.
Although they're walking clichés—and there's little they can say that'll edify or enlighten—the likes of Brook Baldwin and Erin Burnett of CNN are regularly invited to deliver commencement addresses to university graduates! "Remember, it's not about you," Baldwin lectured students at her journalism and communications school alma mater. Yet journalistic evenhandedness regularly tips into self-serving advocacy under the direction of this feminist front-woman. "As a woman, I get frustrated," Baldwin protested
, as she browbeat a British reporter for daring to criticize Kate Middleton's barely-there underwear
Coming as she did from a background in "women's interest stories," it was only natural for Walters to bring the same one-dimensional perspective to "The View," a roundtable dominated by women and aimed at the same demographic. "The View" was "charitably" punctured by the occasional "Guy Day Friday." So successful was Barbara's formula, that it has been copied by Fox News (where, with exceptions like Gerri Willis, Elizabeth MacDonald, Melissa Francis and Kennedy of the Business channel—the babes are not much better). "Outnumbered" (but not outfoxed) is "The View," but with a better view of legs and cleavage. Views voiced by the self-congratulatory cyphers in short skirts on the GOP network, however, are just as formulaic as Barbara's Democrat-friendly debates.
Another of Barbara's brainchildren was the much anticipated, annual "Most Fascinating People List," for which she redefined the concept of "fascinating." Yes, Walters has been a cog in a coarsening culture. Some of her past picks for "The Most Fascinating List" included Paris Hilton, KimYe (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West), and twerker Miley Cyrus.
All Walters' interviews make the flesh crawl. Paris Hilton made a porn debut, in which she made love to the camera (i.e. herself). Walters' syrupy "journalism" transformed the narcissistic specter into a PG-rated tale of innocence betrayed. Well of course: Paris was led astray by a man.
And the broadcaster's empathic posturing concealed a good deal of cattiness, even cruelty. Her idea of getting to the guts of a story: Bring a supremely vulnerable celebrity to tears. Wicked Walters once prefaced an interview with singer Celine Dion by pronouncing, "You are not beautiful." She then paused to watch, gleefully, as tears welled in Dion's beautiful eyes. Now that's what I call a scoop!
The one person to rival Barbara's bitchiness is sly Katie Couric. She interviewed Hillary Clinton while drunk with love for Obama. Couric's below-the-belt barbs made Hillary appear elevated by comparison. The former "First Housewife" was courteous where Katie was unkind. "Someone told me your nickname in school was Miss Frigidaire. Is that true?" Couric inquired. "Only with some boys," Clinton replied, laughing. Couric makes Clinton seem quick and classy.
Years back, Walters was granted an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. To Walters, complexity has always been a cuss word. Her approach was to stick to the inane and the mundane, while lobbing an occasional misguided missile. Out-of-the-blue—and true to her sensation-driven style—Walters asked the former KGB operative if he'd ever killed anyone. Putin's mouth said no; his eyes seemed to be saying, "I feel a strong urge rising."
Contrast the typical Walters tête-à-tête
with the fusillade of irreverent questions and scalding ripostes Fallaci fired on Muammar Qaddafi in 1979. As the New Yorker's Margaret Talbot tells it
, at one point, the colonel complains that she must not have read his manifesto, the "Green Book." "Her answer is pure Fallaci, and very satisfying: 'On the contrary, I read it. It doesn't take very long, you know, 15 minutes at the most. It's so small. My powder compact is bigger than your little 'Green Book.'"
Good newsmen are a dying breed. Good newswomen are mostly dead already. (For reasons not mysterious, mainstream mediocrities are doing their utmost to marginalize sleuths like Sharyl Attkisson, formerly of CBS, and Laura Poitras, the documentarian who helped Edward Snowden expose the National Security Agency.) By the time she died, the brilliant and brave Oriana Fallaci had long since been buried professionally by the likes of Barbara Walters. For her unabashed contempt of Islam, Fallaci was forced to flee her native Italy. She came to America, where, needless to say, she never made it onto Barbara's List.