Star Jones Whacks Barbara Walters: Using Her Adultery to Sell Books

A funny friend e-mailed me this joke about the ABC special tonight selling the new Barbara Walters boudoir-opening memoir: "Just a few hours now until the most eagerly awaited program of the May sweeps, 'Barbara Walters: Skanky In the Seventies.' I can't wait."

From Us Magazine through TV Newser: Star Jones lets her old "View" boss Barbara Walters have it on how she's using her tale of adultery with black Republican Sen. Edward Brooke in the Seventies to sell books: "It is a sad day when an icon like Barbara Walters in the sunset of her life is reduced to publicly branding herself as an adulterer, humiliating an innocent family with accounts of her illicit affair and speaking negatively against me all for the sake of selling a book. It speaks to her true character."

Aside from the never-ending controversy over how Star Jones dramatically lost weight, it's amazing to see how everyone from Oprah to Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post today see Barbara's tale of being a mistress as a fascinating life story, and not a tale of sleazy immorality. It also raises the obvious point of how Barbara's bed-hopping affected her coverage of the Clintons and the famous Monica Lewinsky interview in 1999. It might have helped viewers process that interview with some on-screen graphics that said "Barbara Walters has been a mistress just like her interviewee."

Kurtz's Post profile decried how Barbara's book shows how her life "has been buffeted by a long line of men behaving badly." And she never behaved badly? The Post headline merely stated "Barbara Walters Airs a Life of Glass Ceilings and Romances." Not "Affairs," just "Romances."

You can be blase about the morality of adultery, and still wince at how Walters is using her exceedingly sloppy sex life to grow her celebrity. Kurtz lays out how she seemingly saw no demarcation between single men and married ones:

As the world now knows, Walters rarely lacked for romantic attention, including her affair with the married Sen. Edward Brooke -- a liaison that could have wrecked both their careers had word leaked out.

What emerges from the book is a tenacious 78-year-old woman who, despite occasional mistakes, has managed to overcome every setback in achieving her exalted status as veteran journalist, celebrity interviewer and world-class yenta. In true tell-all fashion, she details her strained relations with her father (a Broadway producer who once attempted suicide), her sister (who was developmentally disabled) and her daughter Jackie (who as a teenager was sent away to a boarding school to battle a drug problem).

Walters wasn't successful at marriage. Her first, to businessman Robert Katz in 1955, lasted three years. Her second, to theatrical producer Lee Guber in 1963, lasted 13 (they adopted Jackie after three miscarriages). The third, to Lorimar Television CEO Merv Adelson in 1986, lasted six years.

And there were the near-misses. She and Claude Philippe, the Waldorf-Astoria's top caterer, talked of tying the knot, but he never got around to divorcing his wife. Roy Cohn, the shady ally of Joe McCarthy, proposed, to her astonishment. In the '70s she dated investment banker Alan Greenberg -- overlapping with her relationship with Brooke -- and Greenspan.

And then there was future senator John Warner, who went on to marry Elizabeth Taylor.

The calculated leak last week of the two-year affair with Brooke, now 88, generated worldwide headlines. Walters says she never could have kept it secret today. "The whole idea of my being with an African American would probably at that time have cost me my job," she says. "He was also married. I am not the first person to ever have a relationship with a married man." They talked about getting married; Brooke divorced his wife and, when Walters broke it off, wound up marrying someone else. Walters says she felt "some guilt" at being partly responsible when the "superb senator" lost his reelection bid.

She doesn't feel guilt about the thought of ruining a marriage for Mrs. Brooke, just that the Senator didn't get re-elected. The picture that emerges is an ego on parade, telling all sorts of embarrassing stories to get themselves noticed.

It's all very reminiscent of....Geraldo Rivera, whose exhibitionistic book title could be Barbara's: "Exposing Myself."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis