“The View” kicked off its first show of the new year by honoring the one and only Barbara Walters, who died on Friday, Dec. 30, at the age of 93, with an hour that reunited several of her former “View” co-hosts and featured highlights from her many years on the daytime series.
“Tributes are pouring in from around the world to celebrate the life of Barbara Walters,” co-host Whoopi Goldberg said at the top of the ABC talk show Monday. Goldberg described “The View” creator and former co-host as “the reason why we’re all sitting here,” adding, “really, if not for her, I don’t know where most of us would be.”
Walters launched “The View” in 1997, with an original panel of Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Debbie Matenopoulos and comedian Joy Behar. Behar remains the only original panelist still on the show, alongside current hosts Goldberg, Sunny Hostin, Sara Haines, Ana Navarro and Alyssa Farah Griffin.
On Monday, Matenopoulos appeared in studio and Jones and Vieira joined the table remotely via video and phone to pay tribute to Walters. Other former “View” co-hosts who stopped by throughout the show included Lisa Ling, Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
As the youngest member of the original lineup, Matenopoulos recalled her relationship with Walters as “very mother-daughter.” “She was tough on me, but I appreciated it because I learned everything from her. She single-handedly changed my life. I was a 22-year-old journalism student at NYU. She took a huge chance on me.”
“The best seat in the house at any social event was next to Barbara Walters because she could tell you everything about anybody in the room,” Jones said, reminiscing alongside Behar, Vieira and Matenopoulos and the current roster of “View” co-hosts. “Half the time, she had either interviewed them, done a story on them, heard a story about them, and she would dish with the best of them, let me tell you. Going to lunch with BW, baby, you would get all the information.”
Vieira weighed in on Walters’ playful side, recalling how much she loved to dress up each year for “The View’s” Halloween episodes.
“I don’t want to play armchair psychologist here, but in a way, Barbara played a role every day of her life, the role of being Barbara Walters,” Vieira said. “And she knew all the words used to describe her: icon, trailblazer, legend, that’s a tough reputation to live up to and to protect. So she couldn’t reveal other sides of herself, she couldn’t really let loose — except on our show at Halloween. And that year when she dressed up as Marilyn Monroe, she wouldn’t break character. She refused! She kept channeling the sexy, flirtatious side of her that was very much Barbara, but very rarely revealed. And through ‘The View,’ she had the ability to peel back the layers of what was a very complicated, complex woman.”
“She very much defied sexism and defied ageism, she went right into the jaws of the lion there when she had to deal with people like Harry Reasoner,” Behar said. “She was not just a friend to us, she was one of a kind and very important to the industry.”
Hostin recalled her first days on the job as co-host at “The View,” and how Walters, who was still co-hosting at the time, helped to validate her opinions and actions as an interviewer.
“When I started co-hosting, I was changing my questions on my cards,” Hostin said. “I don’t know if you ladies remember that, I was changing them and rewriting them, not realizing that maybe that wasn’t appropriate. And she came over to me, there’s a picture of it, and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘This is not my voice, I’m rewriting my questions, is that OK?’ She said, ‘I rewrite mine,’ and she started helping me. I thought, oh my goodness, the generosity of that moment. I was so scared and I was so nervous and she validated my opinion. And after that day, she would ask me during the Hot Topics meeting, ‘Well, what do you think, Sunny?’ And I was like, ‘Barbara Walters is asking me what I think, wow.'”
While Haines never got to sit at “The View” table with Walters, she admired her career from afar. “For someone who gets paid to talk, what she did so well was listen,” Haines said, praising Walters’ journalism career and iconic “20/20” interviews. “And when you see what set her apart, her ability to strike that tone between curiosity, compassion, humanity — when Monica Lewinsky said, ‘I said yes to that interview because I knew she would humanize me and let people see me for who I was,’ there was something so uniquely powerful.”
“I’m grateful, I’m in my 30s, I always saw women in anchor roles, I always saw females on TV in those presences — but it’s because she opened that door,” Farah Griffin added. “That didn’t exist before Barbara Walters. In every sense of the word, she was a pioneer.”
A trailblazer in the industry, Walters worked for the “Today” show for 12 years before joining ABC News in 1976, becoming the first female anchor on evening news. She remained at the network — working for ABC News, joining “20/20” in 1980 and launching “The View” in 1997 — until her retirement in 2014. She won a total of 12 Emmy Awards.
“I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain,” she said upon leaving “The View” eight years ago. “I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women — and OK, some men, too — who will be taking my place.”
Over the course of her career, Walters interviewed every U.S. president and first lady from the Nixons to the Obamas; she sat down with former President Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, before they entered the White House.
Walter’s final appearance as a co-host on “The View” was in 2014, but she remained an executive producer of the show.
“Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement on Friday. “She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state to the biggest celebrities and sports icons. I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend. She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline.”
Watch a clip from Monday’s episode of “The View” below.