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Interview With Barbara Walters

Aired May 18, 2008 - 10:00   ET


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice over): Telling all. She was put in her place by the men on "The Today Show." She was considered washed up after co-anchoring the news. She got down and dirty with Monica Lewinsky. She had a secret affair with a married senator.

A revealing conversation with Barbara Walters.

Turning ugly. Some Obama volunteers have disturbing run-ins with racism. Did "The Washington Post" make too much of that?

Hillary crushes Obama in West Virginia and the pundits don't care. Edwards endorses Obama and the media go wild. Why can't she catch a break?





KURTZ: ... losing it, with the cameras running.


KURTZ: Barack Obama seems to lead a charmed media life. He literally broke into the evening newscast the other day by staging a John Edwards endorsement that obliterated coverage of the West Virginia shellacking he took at the hands of Hillary Clinton.

Here's Charlie Gibson interrupting world news for the event in Michigan.


CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: Let's hear if Barack Obama right at the beginning of his remarks is going to make reference to this endorsement.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at this crowd. It is unbelievable.

GIBSON: Time for maximum exposure. Time to coincide with the evening newscast. Time to give Barack Obama a needed boost after his bad defeat yesterday in West Virginia.


KURTZ: And we will get to that in a few moments. But away from the cameras, some Obama volunteers have been running into pretty disturbing incidents of raw racism, as "The Washington Post" reported this week.

One volunteer in Pennsylvania took a call from someone who said, "Hang that darkie from a tree." A voter in Indiana told a volunteer, "I'll never vote for a black person." A campaign office in the state was vandalized and windows spray painted with such messages as "Hamas votes BHO," and "God damn Wright," as in Jeremiah Wright.

We don't have any video to show you because these incidents tend to occur in the shadows. But they raise the question of how much attention the media should pay both to this kind of ugliness and the larger role of race in this campaign.

Joining us now in Chicago, Roland Martin, radio talk show host and a CNN political analyst. In Boston, Kevin Merida, associate editor at "The Washington Post." And here in the studio, Jim Geraghty, contributing editor at "National Review."

Kevin Merida, you wrote the article about racism, incidents of racism at the Obama campaign. How troubled were you by these incidents and what do you think they add up to?

KEVIN MERIDA, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think as you pointed out, Howie, there's a campaign that goes on in the shadows that most of the public doesn't see. I mean, they see the candidates giving speeches, and at rallies and events.

They read about strategies and the directions of campaigns, but there's a ground game, a whole thing that goes on out in the streets, and door knocking. And that's -- there have been some disturbing things going on that the Obama campaign's reported. And I think up until this point it hasn't come to light.

It's not the total picture of the experience of these volunteers. But it is a snapshot that I think we haven't seen much of.

KURTZ: Jim Geraghty, do some bad experiences by a number of volunteers -- and these were some bad experiences -- prove that Obama's candidacy is facing a significant degree of racism?

JIM GERAGHTY, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I really liked Mrs. Merida's article. I thought it really was eye-opening. But there was one thing that was missing from it, which was a sense of scope.

Are they encountering this from one out of 10 people they encounter, one out of every 100, one out of every four? If it's widespread, then it's a really big story, and I'm kind of surprised we haven't heard more about it. If you told me that one out of every 100 Americans that people encounter or jerks, or words that I can't use on cable news, that's really unfortunate but not exactly shocking and surprising. So...

KURTZ: Roland Martin, I've seen some conservative commentators minimizing "The Washington Post" story by saying, well, there are just -- this is just a few wackos.

What do you make of that line of argument.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that shows the ignorance of those individuals, because even if you use the analogy, well, it's one in 10, if you look at a close election, that 10 percent could make a difference. In the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, some 16 percent of the people said that race was a considerable factor, the number one factor when they were making a decision.

Well, guess what? When George W. Bush ran against John Kerry, 5.7 million people voted. That means that 16 percent, if you just simply project it out, is 917,000 people. Kerry one by more than 200,000.

The bottom line is, it might be a small number, but in a close race it does matter. And so I don't think you can dismiss it. I think what those conservative commentators should be doing is condemning people who think like that and say that is un-American, that is not what we should be expecting in this race. And they should be challenging them, versus by saying, oh, well, it's really no big deal.

KURTZ: You're certainly not dismissing it, Jim Geraghty?

GERAGHTY: Oh, good heavens, no. I mean, the other thing I would note though is, again, from this we don't know what the size of it was.

You're right, it can make a difference in a close race. But this happened to come out the day of the West Virginia primary, which is a state that's almost entirely white. And we all kind of knew Barack Obama was going to lose, he was going to lose pretty badly.

The timing of this article -- this is more of a gripe with The Post editors than with Mr. Merida. Putting on the front page that day kind of was this ready-made excuse of, well, Barack Obama is doing badly. Well, when so much of the opposition is racist, what do you expect?

KURTZ: Kevin Merida, do you want to talk about the timing?

MERIDA: Well, I mean -- well, I think the timing is, you know, stories often get published when they're ready. I mean, the timing's always good for a story like that. And because it's a campaign, it's an ongoing experience.

You know, these volunteers -- you know, I'll tell Jim that after the story's published, and of the hundreds and hundreds of e-mails that I've gotten, there were, of course, almost, you know, 3,500 on the Web site. But of the hundreds of e-mails I personally got, there were a number of people reporting incidents, similar incidents in Rhode Island and Baltimore, in Georgia, and Tennessee, and places all around this country.

So I don't think that we need to do a scientific survey to document this exists. If there are evidence of it, and it's coming from the volunteers, that's something that's worth reporting and the public knowing about.

KURTZ: Roland Martin, from a larger point of view, broader point of view, is there a tendency in the media to portray whites who don't vote for Obama, particularly poorer whites, as somehow motivated, at least in part, by racism, whereas the 90 percent of blacks who vote against Hillary Clinton and for Obama, that charge is rarely, if ever, made?

MARTIN: Yes, but also, you don't hear anybody raise the issue of race when 80 to 90 percent of African-Americans vote for Democrats when it comes to the main election. What do they say? Well, they simply align with those particularly policies and issues.

But one of the reasons we're asking those questions in these particular states when it comes to whites, because we've never been in this position where you've had an African-American in this particular position. But also, the exit polling data is important, Howie, and that is, when you see people make statements such as race matters in their voting, that's why you see -- you have these questions come out.

I mean, like it or not, we've been 43 for 43 for white males in this country when it comes to the president of the United States. Like with Senator Hillary Clinton, the gender question is certainly on the table, the race question is certainly on the table when it comes to Senator Barack Obama. Just like the age question could very well be on the table when it comes to Senator John McCain come November.

KURTZ: Is there a danger of the media making too much of this?

GERAGHTY: Oh, absolutely. It's one of those things where I kind of fear that -- like I said, the reason I want to get to the scope of this and to understand whether this is widespread or this is a large percentage of those who doesn't like Obama...

KURTZ: I'm talking about...

GERAGHTY: Sure. Yes.

KURTZ: ... the whole question of motivation of white and black voters.

GERAGHTY: But it is -- it basically -- it's insinuating kind of a certain smear on Hillary voters, on McCain voters, and even on, you know, Nader and Bob Barr voters. It's perfectly possible to oppose Barack Obama and not be a racist. And I kind of feel like if you associate -- if you constantly portray those who don't like Obama as being these drooling, hateful, sneering, vehement racists, then you kind of -- you know, if enough portraits of that come to the conclusion, oh, that's not a person who opposes Obama.

MARTIN: But Jim -- but Jim, wait a minute. You have reports out there basically saying, oh, African-Americans are simply just blindly following Obama. They're completely just buying all into the whole race issue, as opposed to saying, well, could they potentially be looking at him based upon policies?

And so I've heard many conservatives, I've even heard some white liberals say the same thing -- oh, why are blacks just following Obama? You have to look at the exit polling data.

What people say matters. And when you see eight, twelve, 15, 16, some places 20 percent factor race in, again, in a close election that matters.

KURTZ: All right. Let me let Jim respond briefly and then I've got to move on.

GERAGHTY: But even if it's the maximum amount you said, 20 percent, what about those 80 percent of people who didn't vote for Barack Obama who aren't willing to say that race is a factor? I guess that the insinuation that they're lying?

KURTZ: Let me turn -- let me move on now, because I want to turn to President Bush, who, as most of you know, was in Israel this week. He gave a speech that kicked off a lot of political fireworks in which he talked about some people, unnamed, who he likened to the appeasers of the Nazis in the late 1930s.

Let's watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.



BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: In one particular paragraph, he invoked the fight against the horrors of Nazi Germany. And it was clear to those listening that it was in part to make a point about Barack Obama back home.


KURTZ: Kevin Merida, Dana Perino and other White House officials said, we weren't talking about Obama. Obama who?

Is the press buying the line that the White House is peddling that this criticism was not aimed at Barack Obama, who has, of course, encouraged greater engagement with the likes of Iran?

MERIDA: Well, I think Democrats were quick to jump on that and say that the president was aiming it at Obama. I think it doesn't really matter so much explicitly, because there's going to be a big debate over foreign policy and the direction of this country.

You know, Democrats, you know, expressed outrage, but they're actually happy to have this debate. They're actually happy to see Bush weighing into the campaign, because with the kind of negatives that he has in the public approval ratings, they want nothing more than to tie John McCain with George Bush. And this actually gave them an opportunity to do that.

KURTZ: Right. But let me just -- go ahead.

MERIDA: So I think -- no, I was just going to say...

KURTZ: Roland -- go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead, Kevin.

MERIDA: Well, I was going to say, you know, that's really the importance of that statement, that it was an opportunity for Democrats to engage the president. The president weighed into it. I don't think that John McCain, even though he agreed with Bush's assessment, is actually to have many instances in which he is tied to Bush. I don't think he wants that very much.

KURTZ: Right.

But Roland Martin, Obama certainly made it easier for the media, because he immediately expressed outrage about the president's words and accused George Bush of fear mongering, among other things.

MARTIN: Yes, but Howie, we know who he was talking about. I mean, if I sit here and say, well, some people continue to assert that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, we could probably say, hey, I think you're talking about Dick Cheney.

I mean, so for Obama, this was an opportunity for him to engage in a direct hand-to-hand combat with the president of the United States. That further solidified him, I think, in the eyes of people as certainly the Democratic nominee.

Look, even Senator Hillary Clinton had to defend Senator Barack Obama, which is what happens when you're a nominee. And some might think for the Obama campaign, no doubt they welcomed that.

And for McCain, his opportunity to say, hey, I get to gang up on him, Bush gets to gang up on him. And now I'm going to raise this whole issue of his foreign policy experience. So frankly, it was a win-win on both sides.

KURTZ: All right.

Jim Geraghty, let me play some tape for you. This is Jamie Rubin, former State Department spokesman under President Clinton.

He wrote an op-ed for "The Washington Post" on Friday. It was all over TV with an interview that he had done with John McCain for Sky News two years ago in which he tried to contradict McCain's current position on, never talk to Hamas, that would be terrible, with what he said two years ago. Let's watch part of that interview.


JAMIE RUBIN, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: Do you think American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past in working with the Palestinian government, if Hamas is now in charge?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another.


KURTZ: Every news organization played that. But what Jamie Rubin did not provide but which some organizations later got a hold of, is the second part, another question on this question -- on this issue of dealing with dealing with Hamas.

Let's show you a brief bit of that.


MCCAIN: But I think part of the relationship is going to be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the United States acts.


KURTZ: Did news organizations get hosed on this?

GERAGHTY: Absolutely. And few things made me as happy Friday night than watching Lou Dobbs and Dana Bash spank Jamie Rubin all over the network.

KURTZ: After they found out that there was this other piece of tape.

GERAGHTY: After they found out, because they had asked him for it. And they said, if you can't get us the video, can you at least get us the transcript? And Jamie Rubin -- oh, I don't know. I don't have that.

It was one of those things where, look, you can't tell me he didn't know that he asked two questions. And you can't tell me he didn't know that second answer looked a heck of a lot better for McCain than the first answer.

KURTZ: Kevin Merida, it's always dangerous to rely on one snippet or part of an interview or piece of tape when we don't have the whole thing, isn't it?

MERIDA: Yes. You need both of them. But in a substantive point, one is not in conflict with the other.

I mean, he did say that, you know, they are the government, and we have to deal with them eventually. And then there are caveats. You know, that they -- he said that, you know, they need to renounce violence, it depends on how they act.

And so that's kind of a mixed position. And it's not far from the kind of position that Obama himself has set.

KURTZ: Right. In fairness to Jamie Rubin, the second statement didn't completely undercut what McCain had said, but it certainly did qualify it.


MARTIN: Hey, Howie...

KURTZ: Let met get a break, Roland. We're out of time for this segment.

When we come back, Hillary's landslide win in West Virginia barely registers on the media Richter scale, but John Edwards' endorsement of Obama is treated as a big deal. What gives?

And last night, 11:30 at night, kind of an odd time, John McCain addressed the citizens of America.


MCCAIN: My fellow Americans, I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president? Certainly someone who is very, very, very old.




SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why did 64 percent of Democrats say in a recent poll they wanted this race to continue? Because in the face of the pundits and the naysayers, they know what is at stake.


KURTZ: Hillary Clinton in West Virginia on Tuesday, taking a shot at the pundits. She won two-thirds of the vote in that state, and yet these pundits, the commentators, still called her a certain loser, even as her team begs to differ.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: You keep saying the race is over. It ain't up to Chris Matthews.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: This was expected. We all knew, even as we were saying the last couple of weeks, that this race is basically over, we knew that Hillary Clinton was going to win West Virginia.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: And when Obama trotted out John Edwards at that even in Michigan, the endorsement somehow became bigger news.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It was a master stroke that literally wiped Clinton's big West Virginia headlines right out of the news.

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST: This isn't the final nail in the coffin. This is dirt thrown on the coffin that's already in the grave.


KURTZ: Roland Martin, so the media have decided Hillary is dead and buried, and even a landslide win doesn't matter?

MARTIN: Look, we don't get excited about big wins. Let's just be honest. Let's put it in perspective, Howie.

West Virginia, I believe it was 28 delegates were at stake. Clinton wins, big blowout. But Kansas, 32 delegates were at stake. Obama won that caucus 74-29.

You know what we all did? OK, he's expected to win Kansas. When he won Mississippi, we said, oh, large African-American vote. He's expected to win Mississippi.

On that night we were on the set, we began to talk about Pennsylvania six weeks away and completely blew off Mississippi and Wyoming. That's what happens. Expected wins never lead to lots of conversation. Close wins do.

KURTZ: Forget about the voters, it's all about media expectations.

Let me turn to Jim Geraghty.

I thought there would be a lot more media chatter after West Virginia on how can Obama, who's on the verge of clinching the Democratic nomination, not even crack 30 percent in West Virginia?

GERAGHTY: Well, let's give him credit where it's due. He did beat John Edwards by about 20 points, coming ahead of a guy who quit three months ago.

Look, everybody kind of knew that this was going to be a tough state for him. But when it turned out to be a blowout, I think it just kind of -- and the media kind of downplayed it, I think it reflects media exhaustion with the Democratic primary.

Nobody's had a break since January. They've been covering a race every couple of weeks. I think basically the Democrats are ready to say this race is over, let's get on to the general election. We don't like covering Democrats fighting each other anyway.

KURTZ: All right. So we're all tired and cranky, according to Geraghty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me disagree with that.

KURTZ: Let me -- OK, Roland. Go ahead.

MERIDA: I think the dynamic, though...

MARTIN: Kevin has a delay.

Go ahead, Kevin.

KURTZ: Go ahead, Kevin. I'm sorry.

MERIDA: Yes, I think the key thing is that it didn't change the dynamic of the race. And so I think the media coverage reflected that.

If all of a sudden people said, wow, this is a great blowout, you had seen superdelegates drift toward her, then that would have been a larger story. But there was no dynamic shift in the race because of that blowout.

KURTZ: But Kevin, if TV is going to decide this race is over, and do the delegate math and all that, then why cover these remaining primaries? Why cover Kentucky and Oregon on Tuesday? Why devote, you know, seven hours of air time to it?

MERIDA: Well, because it's part of a continuing -- after a long campaign, you have to see it to its conclusion. And now a lot of the story lines that are emerging is, is how is it going to end? That's been a continuing story line, what is going to happen with the relationship between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, when will she decide that it's over, will it go all the way to the convention?

All of these are continuing story lines that the media has to follow.

MARTIN: Hey, and also, Howie, keep in mind, when the New England Patriots played the Miami Dolphins, we knew who was going to win, but it was on the schedule. You had to play the game anyway.

KURTZ: You do have to play the game anyway.

Let me go back to Kevin with this question. The John Edwards endorsement, I heard John Edwards on TV about 10 days ago saying, you know, it's late in the game, it doesn't really matter who I endorse, it's not going to have much impact.

Do you think the press made to much of this endorsement?

MERIDA: Well, I think that endorsements -- we look at endorsements in the wrong way. It's not about, you know, how many electoral votes will shift to him because of the Edwards' endorsement, or how many people will follow him. You know, endorsements are really about messages. And the message that John Edwards was trying to send at that moment after the blowout was that this race is over, and that we should not continue to think of it as a competitive race. And I think he was trying to lend his weight as a party leader. And his was one of the most coveted endorsements out, I think, other than Al Gore's, that either would want. And so I think it was a signal that, you know, to people that this race really is over.

MARTIN: Hey, Howie, also keep in mind that Obama picked up more delegates with John Edwards endorsing him and his people switching than frankly he did in West Virginia. So the Edwards endorsement was much bigger for him in delegates than West Virginia was.

KURTZ: Actually, there was a numerical impact of that beyond the symbolism of the champion of the white working class throwing his weigh behind Obama.

Let me turn to Jim Geraghty.

McClatchy Newspapers has quoted Barack Obama just the other day as saying this about Fox News -- "Fox has been pumping up rumors about my religious beliefs or my patriotism and what have you since the beginning of the campaign." I notice that Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs the other day called Bill O'Reilly, who's trying to get Obama on the show, a bully.

GERAGHTY: Yes. I find it baffling. You know, the guy who will sit down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won't sit down with some Fox anchors. But I think there's a solution.

Since Obama doesn't think he's going to be treated fairly by Fox, sit down an interview with O'Reilly and just do it live. Just do it live! Do it live!

KURTZ: Is there any -- Roland Martin, is there any percentage in beating up on Fox at this stage of the game for Senator Obama?

MARTIN: Yes, of course there is, because it's called stating of fact. You know, and he's also trying to send the signal that, you guys want to talk to me, but if you want to keep playing the games, look, you know, I may not even talk to you.

And so, sure, I think he'll probably end up sitting down and talking with them. But of course O'Reilly wants a snare. He wants big ratings as well. But really, I think he was talking to that little ball (ph) of hate, Sean Hannity. That's really who I think he was talking to.

KURTZ: Right. Well, he was treated quite fairly by Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

One last thing before we go.

Obama kind of blew off a Detroit reporter for WXYZ named Peggy Agar the other day, and then she got a message on her voicemail. Let's take a look at that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEGGY AGAR, REPORTER, WXYZ: Senator, how are you going to help the American auto workers?

OBAMA: Hold on one second, Sweetie.



OBAMA: Second apology, for using the word "Sweetie." That's a bad habit of mine. I do it sometimes with all kinds of people.


KURTZ: Kevin Merida, I've got 15 seconds. Is this a terrible thing for Obama to use the word "Sweetie"?

MERIDA: You know, I'm sure he didn't want to use it. And maybe he's, you know, hearkening back to the old school. You know, these are the kind of things that, you know, my grandfather would say to people, my uncle would say to people. And probably the professional context, no.

KURTZ: All right. Well, I've got no women on this panel, but Gloria Borger said on the air the other day that she didn't think it was a big deal. And that's my position, too.

All right. Well...

MARTIN: Howie, you're such a sweetie.


KURTZ: Roland Martin -- you too, Roland.

Jim Geraghty, Kevin Merida, thanks for joining us.

Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, we turn the tables on Barbara Walters. She'll talk about TV news, becoming a celebrity (INAUDIBLE), that bombshell affair, and breaking into the boys club of broadcast news.

And later, anchors gone wild. Temper tantrums and profanity. There it is.

Come on, shouldn't they know better?


KURTZ: She broke every barrier that held women back, from morning television to the evening news. She's interviewed every president since Richard Nixon, every star, from Elizabeth Taylor to Angelina Jolie.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: Are you sorry you didn't burn the tapes?




WALTERS: Do you drink too much?




WALTERS: In our country, we read that you are unstable. We read that you are mad.



WALTERS: What kind of a tree are you, if you think you're a tree?

KATHARINE HEPBURN, ACTRESS: Oh, everybody would like to be an oak tree.


KURTZ: Now Barbara Walters is dishing about her professional and personal life in a new memoir called "Audition." One million copies already in print.

I spoke with her earlier from Los Angeles.


KURTZ: Barbara Walters, welcome.


KURTZ: When we got together in New York, you told me that you were surprised that so much of the initial publicity about your book focused on your affair in the 1970s with Senator Ed Brooke. But you went on "Oprah," the P.R. people put it out.

Can it really have been that surprising?

WALTERS: Well, it wasn't my P.R. people who put it out, it was Oprah's P.R. people who put it out. And so, when it came out, which was a week before the book even went on sale, that's the only thing that people knew about the book.

It was five pages out of 612, and it really is a very personal book about my family, about my sister, about my father's ups and downs, about television, about my career and failures. And I had said that one of the reasons I wrote it was that when young women came up to me, perhaps journalists, who said, "Oh, what a great life you have. I'd like to be you," and I said, "Well, then you need the whole package."

The section on Senator Brooke was part of a section in which I talked about Alan Greenspan, Senator John Warner, very good friends. And it was part of my history, and it was also -- and this is important -- part of history. I was trying to show how things have changed in 30 years. But since that's all anybody had, and that's all Oprah put out, for a week that was the story.

KURTZ: That was the headline.

WALTERS: I think that now we've gone way beyond that.

KURTZ: All right. Well, let's talk about...

WALTERS: I guess people have begun -- people have begun to read the book, and they know that it's much more than that.

KURTZ: Let's talk about your journalistic career. 1971, you had been on "The Today Show" for several years. A new host takes over, Frank McGee, and he and NBC tried to put a whole bunch of restrictions on you. Talk a little bit about that.

WALTERS: Well, you know, when you read about it, it looks as if it was something that happened in the 19th century. You can't believe that it was as recent as it was.

KURTZ: Right.

WALTERS: I was a sort of accidental choice on "The Today Show." I had been a writer. And when the woman before me -- there had been 15 "Today" so-called girls before I came on the show. And the last one was Maureen O'Sullivan, the mother of Mia Farrow.

And she was an actress, and most of the "Today" girls had been actresses and models and so on. And she wasn't making it. So they took her off, and while they were trying to find another "star," they put me on for 13 weeks, and I stayed on for 13 years.

So it was -- it was a nice job. And I was on with Hugh Downs, who was very instrumental in putting me on. Later I worked with him on "20/20," and I loved Hugh and we had a wonderful relationship.

KURTZ: But you had problems with Frank McGee, who didn't seem to want you to participate in his interviews.

WALTERS: Well, Hugh left. Hugh left, and Frank McGee had been doing "The Nightly News." He didn't want to do "The Today Show"; he certainly didn't want to do it with a woman. And he didn't feel that I had the Associated Press background.

And he went up to the president of NBC News and said, "I want to do all the hard-news Washington interviews myself. And this was the first time that I answered back. I said, "Not after I've been working nine years here."

So the compromise was he asked the first three questions and I could then come in for the fourth. But if I got the interview myself, outside of the studio, then I could do it. And that's when I did interviews with Dean Rusk, interviews with Henry Kissinger. People began to realize that I had some authority.

Some thought I was a very pushy cookie. But that made the difference.

KURTZ: I would never dream -- I would never dream of calling you pushy, Barbara...

WALTERS: Thank you, Howard.

KURTZ: ... but 1976, you know, you get this offer from ABC News to leave NBC to become the first female co-anchor of an evening news broadcast in modern television history. You agonize over it, and then you go over there and Harry Reasoner, your co-anchor, was cold to you on the air and off the air. And yet you got criticized.


WALTERS: Well, out of the frying pan into the fire. I mean, I was very happy on "The Today Show," and I really thought a very long time before I made that leap. Part of it was that I had a 7-year-old child and I could have, I thought, a normal life.

Harry Reasoner didn't want a partner. He had been doing the program by himself. He thought he was doing fine, although they were way down in the ratings. But Frank McGee, at least on the air -- you think of a kind of tight little smile -- Harry just couldn't.

I was a failure. My career was over. I was at that point, for various reasons which I go into in the book, supporting my mother, my father, my disabled -- my disabled sister.

KURTZ: Right.

WALTERS: It's so hard for me to talk about it. And my daughter. And I thought I was finished.

And I think -- I write about it at some length because there a lot of people who lose their jobs, who have problems. And I thought, you have to work your way back. And I did, and that's when I think I did the best interviews I've probably done in my career.

And also the specials. The specials saved my life, saved my career. But it was a terrible professional time for me. I was finished. KURTZ: Now, occasionally you have said things on the air that have subjected you to criticism. Obviously over the course of a long career. And one of them was after Jimmy Carter was elected president of the United States. You closed the interview by saying, "Be wise with us, Governor. Be good to us."

What were you thinking?

WALTERS: Yes. Well, when I was writing about it I said, "Why didn't I just tuck him into bed and read him a bedtime story?" I don't know.

That was my first special. I was interviewing Barbra Streisand and her then-boyfriend, and President-Elect and Mrs. Jimmy Carter. And by the way, Howard, we started to do after that, little by little, more and more celebrities and less and less political people because people didn't want to see the shah of Iran, which was our next interview, and it was really a very important one. Or then-Vice President Mondale. They only wanted the celebrities.

I don't know what I was thinking with Jimmy Carter, but I must say that I sort of thought later that if a man said, you know, "Be wise with us," "Be wise with us, Governor," "Be wise with the people," some people might not have been as critical as they were with me. But I put it in the book because I wince, and I think, now why did you say that?

You know, listen, that's part of this book. I am not perfect. My career has not been up, up, up. I think it's important for people to know that, to know the struggles, to know the survival, to know the glass ceiling. And I put it all -- I put it all in.

KURTZ: Right. No, you didn't leave much out.

Now, speaking of people poking fun at you...

WALTERS: No, I didn't.

KURTZ: ... it was during that era in the late '70s when Gilda Radner, "Saturday Night Live..."

WALTERS: Baba Wawa.


GILDA RADNER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I'm Baba Wawa. And tonight we'll be talking to an actual wiving legend.


KURTZ: And you initially...

WALTERS: I still hear that.


KURTZ: And you initially hated that.


KURTZ: I mean, it seems like it was a mark of respect that you'd be made fun of on a national comedy program. No?

WALTERS: No. I mean, it was making fun of what looked like a speech impediment. And I do pronounce my Rs much better today.

And it was my daughter, finally -- I don't know what she was doing up so late -- she said, "Mommy, it's funny." You know, where's your sense of humor?

And then I met Gilda and she did it for me. It shows how we have the same makeup person at NBC.

She knew how I sat. She knew what I did. She knew how I looked down and so forth.

And when she died, I wrote to her husband, Gene Wilder, and I said, "She made me laugh. I will miss her." And I signed it, "Baba Wawa."


KURTZ: Now, you have interviewed presidents. You had that remarkable joint interview with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. You've interviewed all the big movie stars.

I don't think you ever got quite as much attention as you did for the Monica Lewinsky interview...


KURTZ: ... which came, of course, right after the Clinton impeachment, when he was acquitted by the Senate.

WALTERS: Yes, that was the -- yes, that was the big "get." And that's still, as I think, the highest-rated news special there has been. But I tried to...

KURTZ: Was it embarrassing for you to have to talk to her about oral sex and the stained blue dress and all of that?

WALTERS: But did you read the -- Howard, did you read the Starr Report?

KURTZ: I did, including the footnotes.



WALTERS: Well, I read it twice. And it was as close to pornographic as you could find. What I tried to do is to tell how the Monica interview came about and what it took to get the big "get." And she didn't take any money for it. She could have. She had no money then.

She had lawyers' fees up the -- you know, up to her neck. And she did not take money for it. And I think to this day, Monica, who's gone to the London School of Economics, who's tried to change her life around, I think she's still the only one of that whole period who is suffering.

You had to ask those questions. What was I going to talk to her about, her hair comb? Speaking of her hair comb, do you know when that interview was over -- it was two hours long -- do you know what I got the most mail about?

KURTZ: I can't imagine.

WALTERS: Her lip gloss. What color was her lip gloss?


KURTZ: After the break, Barbara Walters on turmoil at "The View," the price of celebrity, and that extramarital affair that has now made headlines around the world. Why did she risk her career?


KURTZ: More now of my interview with ABC's Barbara Walters.


KURTZ: Now, some critics -- excuse me, some younger viewers who don't know about "The Today Show" and don't know about the "ABC Evening News," you know, associate you mainly with "The View." And I've seen critics say, well, you know, it's kind of a gossipy gabfest.

Does that hurt your feelings?

WALTERS: Oh, no. Listen, "The View" is not under the news department.

KURTZ: Right.

WALTERS: "The View" is under the entertainment department. But by the way, a lot of people get their news from "The View," especially now, when we have these wonderful group of women headed by Whoopi Goldberg, who is so smart. I mean, they do politics every day.

I wanted it to be, you know, different women of different generations sitting home having a couple of coffee and talking among themselves. Some days it's gossipy, and some days it's very serious. This is not just a silly program.

But I want it to be entertaining. And it is now. It's never been more successful. And I must say, I'm happier on it than I had been in quite a few years. I love these women. KURTZ: You write candidly about the problems you've had with some of your former panelists such as Star Jones. And as you know, Star Jones put out a statement taking issue with the book. And she said, "It is a sad day when an icon like Barbara Walters, in the sunset of her life, is reduced to publicly branding herself as an adulterer or humiliating an innocent family with accounts of her illicit affair, and speaking negatively against me, all for the sake of selling a book. It speaks to her true character."

That must have hurt.

WALTERS: Star is going through a very difficult time. And I feel for her.

I mean, Star -- everything we said in the book, it was the network who fired her. They fired her because she didn't tell the truth about her gastric bypass, which she has now.

KURTZ: And you were put in the position of having to sort of cover up for her, were you not?

WALTERS: I didn't -- we did. I mean, we had to lie for her. And I was worried about my own credibility. Joy Behar was very upset about it.

But I also said that I have enormous respect for what Star brought to "The View." She's a very bright woman. And I think it's hard for her now. And I want to remember the wonderful days we had.

Star is a talent. And Star is very intelligent. And she'll have a career again.

KURTZ: As we mentioned earlier, you write very candidly about your personal life, your three marriages, or problems in your family.

WALTERS: You know, one of the reasons I had three marriages is that you didn't live with anybody in those days. Otherwise, I might still -- who knows?

I wasn't very good at marriage. And part of the book is about trying to balance career, children, marriage. It's very tough for women. It's tough for me.

KURTZ: It is hard to do that today as well.

WALTERS: And it's still tough for women. Yes, it is.

KURTZ: But you dated Alan Greenspan. You dated, as you said, future Senator John Warner. He went on to marry Elizabeth Taylor, and then you interviewed them both.


WALTERS: Does he ever say to you, "Elizabeth," or pinch you under the table?

ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ACTRESS: No. If he pinched me under the table I'd pinch him right back.


Or do that.


KURTZ: Wasn't that kind of awkward for you?

WALTERS: It was a little strange, yes. But I was doing specials then and it was OK with both of them.

I had known Elizabeth before. I interviewed Elizabeth after. I had -- I don't think I had interviewed John Warner before because he had just become a senator. It was a little strange, but everybody -- I mean, we made it clear that we were friends.

KURTZ: When you had the affair with Ed Brooke, married senator, African-American politician, you kept it secret, which is kind of amazing to me looking back.

WALTERS: It would never have been a secret today.

KURTZ: Were there journalists -- were there journalists who kept your secret?

WALTERS: I don't know if there were journalists. There are people now who knew about it then. And because he was married, we had to break it up.

It was -- we knew it was wrong. But I'm -- you know, I'm not perfect. And this is one of the things that you see in this book, is that I'm not always that proper, authoritative, stern person.

It was -- it was a part of my life. And as I say, it was a part of history. It would have ruined his career and mine then.

Probably today with so many, you know, relationships between blacks and whites, it wouldn't be the same. Look, we have -- you know, we have an African-American who may be the president candidate. And this book, in many ways, is history. And I was trying to show the difference in the way the situation was then and the way it is today.

I wrote to Senator Brooke. He knew that it was going to be in the book.

KURTZ: Right.

Four years ago you stepped down after about a quarter century as the co-anchor of ABC's "20/20." Why did you decide to leave the program?

WALTERS: I had been doing it for 25 years. The program was changing. Well, all of television news was changing. It was getting to be more of the big get, the big get, the big get, and more -- less heads of state, less presidents, and more celebrities coming out of rehab. And I just -- I just didn't enjoy it anymore.

"20/20" is a wonderful program, but it's a different program than it was when I was doing it.


KURTZ: And could the same be said of the morning shows, like "The Today Show?" Do they have less news and more celebrity...

WALTERS: Well, I don't want to comment. I don't want to comment on other shows.

You know, I don't make judgments anymore, and I don't judge other people's careers and other people's programs. That's so easy to do. And the easiest thing to do is to just lash out and give opinions. I don't want to do that.

KURTZ: But are you disappointed...

WALTERS: I don't mind writing about myself, but I'm not going to put other people down.

KURTZ: But when you say to me that there's more emphasis on the celebrity gets, celebrities coming out of rehab, and less interest in this television culture that we still live in, in heads of state or serious issues, that sounds to me like you're somewhat disappointed at the turn that television has taken.

WALTERS: I think a lot of people are who -- you know, who are in what -- who are in the news business. But, you know, it's a different time. It's a time of Internet and the time of blogs and the time of people with their own cell phones that take pictures and put it on the air. It's just a different period.

KURTZ: You are probably more famous, Barbara Walters, than most of the people you interview. When you reached that -- when you became a celebrity yourself, did that in some ways complicate your media career?

WALTERS: You know, if you do a commercial and you're selling chickens you become famous. So, when you work for the news department -- and you know that, Howard -- you're not surrounded by agents and press agents and entourage and bodyguards. And you work very hard, and you're not treated like a big celebrity. And I don't live like one.

I walk down the street by myself. I don't have entourage with me. And when I do interviews, I mean, people, I hope, respect what I do, just as they do with all of the other people who are now celebrities. You name me somebody who is on the air every day, and that person is a celebrity.

KURTZ: But when you walk down the street, people recognize you. As soon as you open your mouth, I'm sure they recognize that voice.

WALTERS: You know what? The voice. If I keep my -- if I keep my mouth shut, I'm safe.

When I open my mouth -- I remember years ago I was taking Jackie, my littler girl, and we were in some store. And she did something. And I said, "Don't do that!" And they said, "Aren't you Barbara Walters?"

And I thought, keep you mouth shut. Just keep your mouth shut, they'll never know.

KURTZ: All right.

Barbara Walters. The book is rocketing onto the bestseller list.

Thanks very much for joining us.

WALTERS: Thank you, Howard. I appreciate it.


KURTZ: She'll never keep her mouth shut.

Still to come, F-bombs away. Some pretty famous anchors lose their cool on camera, but you don't have to have a TV show to suffer big-time embarrassment.


KURTZ: Television's a tough game. And sometimes you get frustrated. Sometimes you get spitting mad. And sometimes, if you're really unlucky, you get caught on camera.


SUE SIMMONS, ANCHOR: Hey, that Sue Simmons is fun. I'd like to hang out with her.

KURTZ (voice over): Sue Simmons is a veteran actor for NBC's New York station. And this week, after reading a tease for her upcoming newscast, for reasons that are completely mysterious, she dropped the F-bomb.

SIMMONS: And paying more at the grocer, but getting less. We'll tell you how to get the most.

What the (EXPLETIVE) are you doing?

KURTZ: Later that evening Simmons apologized.

SIMMONS: While we were live just after 10:00 I said a word that many people find offensive. I'm truly sorry.

KURTZ: A dumb mistake, no question. But did Simmons deserve this "New York Post" story about "Salty Sue," quoting unnamed former co-workers as saying she is "famous for her liquid dinners between broadcasts"? There's no evidence that alcohol had anything to do with her slip. Bill O'Reilly sometimes gets mad on the air.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: You want an open border anarchy!

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: What I want is fairness. We have lured...


KURTZ: But never like this -- a tape from the 1990s, when O'Reilly was anchoring "Inside Edition," hit the Internet this week.

O'REILLY: I can't read it. There's no words on it. We'll do it live! (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I can -- don't write it. And we'll do it live!



KURTZ: Whoever leaked that clearly doesn't like O'Reilly. I'll tell you, I'm going to be much more careful when I'm anywhere near a camera.

But you know, you don't have to be in TV to be embarrassed by something you've said.


KURTZ (voice over): "The Boston Herald" reported three months ago that a staffer for the New England Patriots secretly videotaped a St. Louis Rams practice before the two teams faced off in the 2002 Super Bowl. The Patriots, you may recall, were fined and penalized for surreptitiously taping coaching signals during a game last season against the New York Jets. But after an NFL investigation found nothing to support the new allegation, The Herald ran a banner headline this week, "Sorry, Pats."

Facing a possible lawsuit, the tabloid apologized for a story based on anonymous sources that it now says was false.


KURTZ: It's not quite as eye-catching as a TV anchor going off half-cocked, but a mistake of that magnitude is far worse. Anyone who disagrees doesn't know what they're talking about.

Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.