Jewish Trivia: Barbara Walters, z”l


Barbara Walters at Met Opera by Rubenstein is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mark D. Zimmerman, Special For The Jewish Light

Journalist Barbara Walters died last week at the age of 93. Walters was the granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She began working in television in the early 1950’s, eventually becoming the Today Show “Today Girl,” presenting weather and light news assignments. She went on to become the first female and the first Jewish co-host of an American TV news program, co-anchoring the ABC Evening News with Harry Reasoner.

She later became famous for her in-depth interviews of many public figures, including Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, Barbara Streisand, and a joint interview with Anwar Al Sadat and Menachem Begin. Walters also created and co-hosted the ABC daytime talk show The View. Barbara Walters was married to three Jewish men and dated many other Jews and non-Jews. What other prominent Jewish person did Barbara Walters date?

A. In 1997, Walters began dating Bernard Lewinsky, the father of Monica Lewinsky. They had met when Bernard Lewinsky, who was an oncologist, treated Dena Walters, Barbara’s mother, for cancer. It is because of this relationship that Monica Lewinsky agreed to her famous interview with Barbara Walters at a time when every prominent news reporter was trying to land that interview.

B. Barbara Walters met NBC News producer and executive Reuven Frank when she first stared working as the Today Show“Today Girl.” Walters says she started dating Frank as a way to gain entrée into the hard news side of the business, which was at that time not open to women, and in fact Frank did give her the opportunity to begin covering hard news stories.

C. When she was in college, Barbara Walters dated Roy Cohn, the lawyer who later served as the chief counsel for Senator Joseph McCarthy. Walters dated Cohn to thank him for getting an arrest warrant against her father dismissed, and Cohn claims to have later asked her to marry him (a claim which Walters denies).

D. Barbara Walters briefly dated journalist Mike Wallace, one of the correspondents on 60 Minutes. But the relationship ended when Walters landed her interview with Fidel Castro in 1976. This was Castro’s first interview with an American journalist, and Castro had agreed to meet with Wallace. But a week before Wallace was scheduled to fly to Havana for the interview, he learned that Walters had scooped him, and he ended their relationship.

E. Gilda Radner asked Barbara Walters out on a date in 1976. Walters was intrigued by the young comedian so she accepted, and the couple dated for a few months until Radner suddenly ended the relationship. Only later did Walters learn that Radner was just doing research as she developed her Baba Wawa character for Saturday Night Live.

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