Pioneer journalist Barbara Walters died on Friday, December 30, at the age of 93, but her legacy of boldness, being direct, and getting to the heart of the news lives on, like the time she told the Kardashian family they had exactly zero talent.
ABC’s Barbara Walters was known for her skill, tact, and diplomacy in interviewing others, whether they were Oscar-winning actors and actresses, celebrities facing the uncertainty of a lengthy illness, politicians, sitting United States Presidents, or White House interns embroiled in scandalous affairs with sitting United States Presidents.
When Walters retired from ABC’s primetime news program 20/20 in 2004, she had more than 700 interviews under her belt, including interviews with Sir Elton John, convicted criminals Erik and Lyle Menendez, the late Michael Jackson, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Cuban President Fidel Castro, South African President Nelson Mandela, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and hundreds more.
Barbara Walters rose to fame as a pioneer in broadcast journalism, and in many ways, she paved the way for others, teaching them–by her example–how to handle interviews with world leaders–many of them in the midst of unrest, scandal, wartime, etc. She seemed to never shy away from an interview with anyone, and her interviews took place “in the thick of it,” not after the news had happened.
All of her success apparently took her by surprise.
“I never expected this,” she was quoted as saying. “I always thought I’d be a writer for television. I never even thought I’d be in front of a camera.”
But viewers never would have known, as she was such a natural in front of the camera and in front of rulers, dignitaries, and celebrities.
“I’m not afraid when I’m interviewing,” Walters told The Associated Press in 2008. “I have no fear!”
And for all the interviews she conducted over the course of her 64-year career, one of the most memorable (one of them, mind you–not the most memorable) took place years ago as Barbara Walters sat opposite four members of the Kardashian family, who were all “squeezed together on chairs.”
The interview was part of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People series, during which Walters interviewed “fascinating people” like Prince William, Michelle Obama, Clint Eastwood, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and others.
In a resurfaced clip from the video, which is old enough that all of the Kardashian women still have brunette hair and little to no plastic surgery so far, Barbara Walters can be heard telling Kris Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, and Kourtney Kardashian . . . well, the truth. Walters tells the group, “You’re famous for being famous.”
The family can credit its fame to the Kardashian girls’ late father, attorney Robert Kardashian, who rose to notoriety in 1994 after O. J. Simpson was accused of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. Kardashian and Simpson had been friends since the 1960s, and Kardashian helped in the defense of Simpson during his criminal trial in 1995.
“You don’t really act,” Walters says in the clip. “You don’t sing. You don’t dance.”
Then Walters moves on to tell the Kardashians gathered for the interview, “You don’t really have any, forgive me, any talent.”
No fear, indeed.
The clip is more than a decade old, but has resurfaced following news of Barbara Walters’ passing on Friday. Almost immediately, fans of Walters (and perhaps non-fans of the Kardashians) began posting commenting on Walters’ interview with the “famous for being famous” stars.
One responded to the clip, saying, “[Walters] said it with her chest; she destroyed them.”
“It was a kind of iconic trash-talk one rarely sees in the ’20s,” another fan said. “Loved it.”
But perhaps the most poignant (and complimentary) comment came from yet another online user, who posted, “One Barbara Walters is WAY more than four Kardashians.”