Barbara Walters must just hate being in the middle of the current junkyard dogfight going on between a snapping Rosie O’Donnell and a snarling Donald Trump. She comes from the Old School, the very Old School, and for decade after decade she has vigilantly guarded her sterling public image, strong-arming anyone who might even attempt to tarnish it.
Like a lot of celeb journalists who are far more celeb than journalist, she and her p.r. people have always been especially controlling of any story that has to do with her. After almost every interview Walters gave to the magazine where I was editor, she would call and want to change and soften her quotes. Surely I wasn’t the only editor to whom this happened.
Once Walters agreed to have a heart-to-heart talk with columnist Cindy Adams. Afterwards, she called and insisted on killing the story. Instead, she offered to interview herself. I agreed to it, I confess, and it was one of the best-read stories the magazine ever published. But that was back in those long-ago days when the public wanted to admire their celebrities. And besides, Barbara’s heart-to-heart was pretty bland anyway.
But now Walters, always a bully with a velvet glove, has been dragged into a rumble by Donald and Rosie, big, rough thugs that they are. She has been plunged head first into our new world of celebrazines and gossip blogs, where hearing something bad about someone famous is not only better than hearing something good, it is the only thing that can make news and spike ratings.
In case you’ve been distracted by news about the Dems’ takeover or the war in Iraq, the fight with Trump started when Rosie, who is now the lead host of The View, criticized him for giving Miss USA, the winner of the beauty pageant Trump owns, another chance, after the young woman had been doing some very serious partying. Rosie, who uses The View these days as her personal soapbox, condemned him and called him, among a number of other things, “a snake oil salesman.” Trump hit back threatening to sue, which is standard behavior for him. But what makes this different is that Walters, who besides appearing on the show is The View’s producer, got into the middle of the row.
According to Trump, Walters apologized for Rosie’s behavior, complained about her, and expressed regret for ever having hired her. In a letter Trump sent to Rosie, and which was just leaked to the press, he recounts an earlier incident when he ran into Walters eating at Le Cirque and asked how Rosie was doing; Walters sarcastically rolled her eyes and said, “Donald do you have to ruin my meal?”
On Tuesday it was reported that Rosie, who has dramatically increased the show’s ratings, blew up backstage at Walters for not being supportive enough. On the Wednesday show, a very, very subdued Walters, head down, dissed Trump as a “poor, pathetic man.” It was obvious she was making amends to a grinning Rosie. Rosie, in fact, is so much in ascension that during the program, which she dominates day after day, she was allowed to go on and on with her usual liberal rant while Walters mostly just listened.
Rosie, not even bothering to sprinkle her monologue with jokes, criticized the war, the president, and the Patriot Act non-stop and also complained about the lack of childcare provided by The View. Every once in a while, Walters told Rosie how wonderful she was. The show finished with an interview with the gay actor who had introduced Rosie to her “wife.” A battered Walter, looking very tired, just kept smiling wanly. Trump, not missing a beat, immediately fired back, calling Walters “a sad figure-head dominated by a third rate comedian.”
Frankly, it is poignant to see Walters at the end of an extraordinary career being so beaten down not only by Rosie and Trump but by the changing times. For years Walters used her classy style, her handwritten notes, and her gifts of Porthault linen to get the big “gets” of her past interviews. That just doesn’t work anymore. Oh, she may still get a “get” now and then, but nobody much cares anymore about a matronly interviewer exchanging niceties with a movie star or even a head-of-state. And Walters, I am sure, is smart enough to know that now she needs Rosie’s battering-ram style and big mouth to get the headlines and the ratings. But it sure does make her look very sad.
– Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.