Tears and controversy: A look back at Barbara Walters' 50 years on TV
Published Friday, May 16, 2014 12:22PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 16, 2014 7:12PM EDT
Barbara Walters closed out her lengthy broadcast career Friday, stepping away from the cameras after a more-than-50-year career working in TV.
Walters is retiring as one of the most celebrated American journalists, having worked for several high-profile shows, including The Today Show, 20/20 and ABC News.
Her claim to fame, beyond nabbing high-profile politicians and celebrities for her TV specials, was a knack for bringing them to tears.
So famous was Walters for making celebrities reach for the tissues that, in later years, interviewees would often jokingly promise to remain stoic.
They would usually cry anyway.
As Walters signs off for the last time, here’s a look back at some of the emotional on-camera well-ups, and her career controversies:
At the time of Walters’ 2009 interview with Patrick Swayze, the star of “Dirty Dancing” was waging war with pancreatic cancer -- a battle he would lose only months after the show’s taping. In it, Swayze becomes emotional recalling a famous line in “Ghost” about love and death: “It’s amazing Molly, the love inside, you take it with you.”
“See it got me, it was a good line,” a half-crying, half-laughing Swayze says to Walters.
In the interview, Walters also asks Swayze if “he talks to his father,” who passed away many years ago. Swayze gently chastises Walters: “You devil dog,” perhaps in a reference to a 1988 interview in which a tearful Swayze dabbed at his eyes while talking about the loss of his father.
Known to have prompted enough tears from interviewees to fill a swimming pool, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey herself sheds more than a few when talking about her relationship with best friend Gayle King during a 2010 interview with Walters. “Shoot!” Winfrey says. “I wasn’t going to cry here.”
Still at the height of scandal over her affair with then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky appears upbeat and happy at points during her sit-down with Walters.
The tears come when she speaks about the toll the international scrutiny took on her parents.
“People have no idea what this has done,” Lewinsky says, choking up. “Behind the name Monica Lewinsky there is a person, and there is a family, and there is so much pain that has been caused by all this.”
In an interview with Ringo Starr in 1981, the former Beatles drummer’s eyes become glassy as he remembers the moment he learned of John Lennon’s death, and the last time he saw his friend and former bandmate.
“Do you want to stop that now because it doesn’t help, it always gets me upset,” Starr says to Walters.
From 1997 to 2014, Walters took on co-hosting duties at "The View," alongside several different hosts including Whoopi Goldberg, Star Jones, Lisa Ling and Jenny McCarthy.
The daytime talk show, which airs on ABC in the U.S. and CTV in Canada, is known for its diverse female hosts, who discuss and debate a variety of social and political issues.
Here's four controversial moments from Walters' stint co-hosting "The View."
Walters weighs in on Woody Allen sex abuse allegations
Walters waded in on the sexual abuse allegations against director Woody Allen by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, after Farrow wrote an open letter in the New York Times last February detailing the alleged abuse.
In an episode of "The View," Walters noted that she has seen first-hand the relationship Allen shares with his two daughters, by wife Soon-Yi Previn.
"I have rarely seen a father as sensitive and as loving and as caring as Woody is and Soon-Yi to these two girls," she said, noting that she doesn't know Dylan Farrow, but has a good relationship with her mother Mia Farrow.
When co-host McCarthy questioned what Dylan Farrow would gain from bringing up the painful controversy, Walters said "Supposedly she is very angry, but she's doing it now because he's up for an award."
Conflict-of-interest with Syrian presidential aide
Walters issued an apology in 2012, after it emerged that she had offered to speak favourably of an aide working for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Walters had landed a high-profile interview with Assad in the second year of the ongoing Syrian civil war.
Walters later issued an apology, when it came to light that she had attempted to help Assad's aide get an internship at CNN and a placement at Columbia University's journalism program.
Walters said that after the interview with Assad, she kept in contact with the aide, and the young woman had originally asked for a job at ABC News. Walters told her that that would be a conflict-of-interest, but offered to pass her resume on to the CNN show "Piers Morgan Tonight," and speak with a Columbia professor on her behalf.
"In retrospect, I realize that this created a conflict and I regret that," Walters said.
Walters on Scientology
Jenna Miscavige Hill, the niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, criticized the veteran journalist after Walters said that Scientology had a "pretty good educational program."
The comments were made on a 2013 episode of "The View," after the hosts began discussing Jaden Smith, the son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. The younger Smith had come under fire for sending out tweets critical of school and the education system. His parents are rumoured to be Scientologists.
Walters said "I'm not going to speak about Scientology in general, but Scientology has a pretty good educational program, they're not telling people to drop out.
"I have been to some of the scientology schools and some of their educational programs are very good."
Miscavige Hill, who left Scientology in 2005 and published a book about her life as a Scientologist, later issued a statement calling Walters' remarks "ignorant" and "irresponsible."
In the statement Miscavige Hill claims that she was born into Scientology and instead of being "properly educated," was "indoctrinated" and made to perform heavy labour.
"I have no high school education, and college was never even a vague possibility for me until I escaped," she said.
Walters, Goldberg use the N-word on air
Walters and Goldberg surprised many viewers after saying the N-word during a discussion on "The View" in 2011.
Responding to media reports that then-Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry had ties to hunting grounds located on a property which was referred to as "N---erhead," Goldberg and Walters both used the term on air.
"It's so hard to know what to say now, so I just used the word," Goldberg said, although ABC bleeped it out.
In reference to the story, Walters also used the term, noting that broadcasters never use the term. "The fact that I just said it now gives me chills, the fact that you (Goldberg) said it… we never use that word," she said.
According to reports, the property, where Perry had hosted guests early on in his career, was known by the name painted in block letters across a large rock near the gated entrance.
Goldberg said: "It said what it said, and to pretend that it didn't say that, that it said "N-word," that doesn't make any sense. Let's call it what it said."