Speaker Walter was, of course, the greatest news anchor there was, I think. And he indeed did make history by first asking Manakin Vegan if he would receive on was a dot and then having Anwar Sadat say, yes, I’ll come to Israel. That was an enormous story. And it was a story that happened because of what would have happened anyway, perhaps. But Walter did that and just deserves all kinds of credit when it turned out that Anwar Sadat was indeed going to go to Israel. There was a great scramble for all of us to get over there. I have to tell you that I was I didn’t begin to be in Walter’s class or John Chancellor, who was the anchor at NBC and was also there. I mean, I was just struggling to keep my head up in my second year at ABC. It was Roone Arledge, the brand new president. Are they B.S. news? Who said I go over there? So I went first to Israel, didn’t interviewed no show Diane, which I thought was pretty important. Went back to my hotel exhausted. And when I did, I got a phone call from Roone saying, John Chancellor and Walter Cronkite are both in Egypt. Get their. I didn’t know what to do, I called the Egyptian ambassador in Washington because you couldn’t make a phone call from at that point Israel to Egypt. And he said, if you can get here, we’ll get you on the plane. We chartered a plane. We did indeed shot off a plane from Tel Aviv. We did not land in Cyprus, as you had to in those days. We flew directly from Israel to Egypt.

Speaker When I got off, it turns out that this was the first plane that had flown nonstop from Israel to Egypt since 1948. Wow.

Speaker And then I went to where Anwar Sadat was going to board the plane. There were Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor. They were not happy to see me. I didn’t blame them. First of all, I was a nobody. Secondly, who needed that competition?

Speaker And when Sadat came and saw me and Walter. I held out my microphone first. And Sadat said, So, Barbara, you made the plane. Well, that’s my big scoop. That’s what I’m going to send back to America. So, Bob, you made the plane. So then Walter put out his microphone and said, Mr. President, Mr. President. And President Sadat said, so, Walter, what do you think of Barbara making the plane? I mean, I hope we didn’t know whether to laugh and we really wanted to cry. And that is how it happened. I got on the plane along with John Chancellor and Walter Cronkite. They had the best seats. I was an upstart.

Speaker I was sitting Nowheresville. But I wrote a note and I gave it to Anwar Sadat chief of staff, and it said after the ceremonies in Israel, will you do an interview with me? And I had two boxes alone with prime minister begin when I got off the plane. I got the note back and said, yes, alone. Whew! After I had broadcast at that time with Peter Jennings, he and I did all of the ceremonies, the amazing ceremony, you see Egyptian flags, Egyptian national anthem, how the Israelis got to it so quickly. Heaven knows, by the way, it was Thanksgiving weekend and Walter was broadcasting, of course, for CBS, the anchor. After that, I went to Minnoch and vegan’s house to do an interview with him the same evening. And just before he went to bed, he came out of his bedroom. And I was doing what we call a stand up guy. You know, here I am. This is what’s happening. And he said, Barbara, I asked President Sadat if he would do the interview with me. And he said, for our friend Barbara. Yes. So that’s how sorry, Walter. That’s how I got to do the first interview with Unrest Dad and Manakin back in which they did right after Sadat’s historic appearance at the Israeli Knesset. Walter.

Speaker The best competitor. I’m so proud to have Walter Cronkite as a competitor. What I hear about it. Heard about it. He then did an interview. But afterwards, while the satellite was up, the whole country heard Walter saying, dad, Barbara Walters get anything I didn’t get. As a matter of fact, I didn’t.

Speaker And then John Chancellor had gone out to dinner and didn’t even know about these interviews.

Speaker So he never got one. To my knowledge, these are the only interviews that I can Begin and Anwar Sadat did together. So in that sense, they were historic. I remember, though, that when we broadcast it, we had to interrupt. I think a football game was a Saturday and the audience was furious. But we look back now. It was the most memorable experience. It was a time that we were a part of history. Walter had induced that history. I’d had my little role doing the joint interview, but. I just have to say this, no matter who did the first interview.

Speaker There is not anyone and probably never will be anyone with whom people trust us much believe in as much with the integrity. The charm. The. Everything that he has that has made him probably the best anchor that we’ve ever had in broadcasting.

Speaker Can you tell me why you think he’s.

Speaker I just did how I thought I did. I mean, why was he trusted? OK, let me try to think about.

Speaker Part of being trusted, I must say, as a parent, the way you look, the way you behave. I mean, as Walter got older, he was called Uncle Walter. They never would have called me Barbara. By the way, it doesn’t work for women. He has a presence. He has that wonderful voice. He has that wonderful smile. But people also believed him. There were times when Walter did show his emotion at the funeral of President John Kennedy. We knew how he felt. Walter was very involved in the space program. And when there were that terrible, terrible accident, I mean, we knew that Walter Cronkite was in tears, as were the rest of us.

Speaker After a while, I think perhaps we knew his political point of view, but it was not something that he brandished on the air. And we felt that Walter Cronkite. Believed what he was saying and would not have said it if he didn’t believe it. I think he’s lived his life that way. My own feeling is that Walter left the anchor chair too soon. I think he had many more years to go. But at that point, there was a different kind of competition. Should Dan Rather get the job? Should Dan Rather go to ABC, which was offering him an anchor chair and a new choice? And so I think Walter made the decision that he should step down. I think he stepped down too soon.

Speaker He was that clear? That was perfect. OK, perfect. I wondered if you could. Were there any other circumstances that you had in your reporting experience?

Speaker Well, I didn’t see I didn’t I didn’t I didn’t compete with Walter. No, I was not anchoring. I wasn’t doing that. I was doing all other kinds of thing.

Speaker I know. For example.

Speaker So that’s the only thing. Yeah. No, no, no. I mean, Walter was anchoring. I was not anchoring.

Speaker I was wondering if you had any thoughts about. Have you. Have you seen how network news has changed?

Speaker Oh, enormously. Enormously. I mean, people have been talking about that endlessly.

Speaker Oh.

Speaker So, you know, I don’t mind. But, I mean, it’s totally different.

Speaker Right. I mean, I just we’re trying to do more than just chatter a little bit about the.

Speaker I think everyone knows that the broadcasting network news is totally different. First of all, we have the Internet and young people are getting the news right from the Internet. Excuse me. I think everyone knows that broadcasting, especially network news broadcasting, has changed enormously. First of all, we have cable stations. You can get your news from all different sources and directions. And we have 24 hour news. Add to that we now have the Internet so that young people really don’t have much interest in watching the network news with the great voices. They’re getting it from the Internet. We also now bring you the news. You know, immediately we have satellite. We can take out news as much as it’s coming. We have telephones that that broadcasts the news. It is instant news. All of that has changed.

Speaker And the time of the great anchor man, because it was usually a man that has changed. I came to ABC from NBC, from The Today Show to be the first female co-anchor of a network news program. And that was at ABC and it was 1976. My partner was a CBS alumni, Harry Reasoner. He did not want a partner. He did not want a woman. I was vilified.

Speaker In the press today, women are on all the time as anchors. They’re on certainly on the weekends long before now when there are female anchors and very good ones. But then it was it was just it my career was over. I was drowning. There was no life preserver. That’s when I began to work my way back. That’s when I did something like the interview with Anwar Sadat and Minnoch and Begin and then spent a great deal of time in the Middle East doing general reporting. Those days are over. And finally, when I left being the first female network news anchor, it was the greatest feeling of relief. I it was the worst time of my professional life. When I say this to young women today, they don’t know what I’m talking about. I also got a very big salary. I was doing that and four specials, but it was bigger and the accumulated sense and other people got people, even Walter Cronkite were furious about it, although they did go in and ask for visas and probably got them. So we have a time now in which you can get your news from many sources in which it is no big deal. If you have a female anchor, you have females anchoring all morning shows. You have females on every one of the local shows. There is no great big difference. What we worry about today is that all of the networks want people 18 to 49, and that includes the anchors. Walter would have been considered an old man by the time he left, and yet he had the youngest audience because they loved him. Today, it’s all young, young, young, young.

Speaker But the time when you had heavily, frankly. Well, that’s even before. Yeah, that was before when you only had those three networks and ABC and ABC was nowhere then, even now in competition. So they they wielded quite a bit of power.

Speaker Yes, they do. Well, I can say that today the news anchors, although they are respected, do not really have.

Speaker Have great power. I think perhaps the people in the morning shows have more power because they do interviews and and they can talk so forth. I think a lot of the cable people have a great deal of power. The Fox network has a great deal of power. But way back when you had Walter Cronkite and CBS and Huntley and Brinkley and NBC, they were the most important programs. There were the morning shows. I was on one of them today show, but didn’t have that kind of power. There was no cable. There was no end of Internet. There were no magazine programs. I can remember with it. 60 Minutes was on then. If so, it wasn’t doing hard news. It was doing interviews. It was a very different time. And to get to the to the anchor, to have Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley later on, John Chancellor and and even to some degree, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather later on, there was still opinion makers.

Speaker Yes, it’s true. But to a much lesser degree today, I don’t think any anchor, again, will have that kind of.

Barbara Walters
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Barbara Walters , Walter Cronkite: Witness to History" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 29, 2006 ,
(1 , 1). Barbara Walters , Walter Cronkite: Witness to History [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Barbara Walters , Walter Cronkite: Witness to History" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 29, 2006 . Accessed March 20, 2023


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.