Now that Barbara Walters has announced her TV retirement date, Alex Pareene cuts her down to size in Salon. After relating stories about George Steinbrenner in Cuba that “journalist” Walters covered up, and listing some of the rich and powerful she befriended and even dated, Pareene adds:
Let’s not forget one of her most recent Big Scoops, an exclusive interview with murderous Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. How did she score that one? It probably helps that she was friends with Assad. Walters vacationed to Syria in 2008, and thought Assad and his wife, Asma, were “very charming and intelligent.” After the 2011 interview — while Assad’s military was killing demonstrators across the country — Walters wrote letters recommending the Assad aide who set up the interview for plum American media internships. (With Walters’ help, the aide was accepted to Columbia.)
There’s nothing wrong with weepy celebrity interviews. They can be fun! But for some reason Walters long ago was slotted into the “serious journalist” category despite her total lack of journalistic ethics and her tendency to interview her close, personal friends. Her legacy as a breaker of barriers is sound. Her habit of using her position to protect and cover for some of the worst abusers of power in the world should also be remembered as we are forced to spend the next year celebrating her achievements. It’s actually remarkable how, in a city and an industry full of very powerful people, not all of whom are corrupt monsters, Walters has consistently grown close to the worst that the elite has to offer, from Steinbrenner to Trump. And that attraction to the blackest, most soulless exemplars of American power is probably why she’s been so phenomenally successful.