By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Numerous top women broadcasters paid homage to Barbara Walters last week, who passed at 93. But none of them gave Walters more credit for their careers than Oprah Winfrey. She paid perhaps the ultimate tribute to Walters, who among many other things was the first woman to be a host on “The Today Show,” and also the first to co-anchor a nightly news broadcast.
“Without Barbara Walters there wouldn’t have been me — nor any other woman you see on evening, morning, and daily news,” Winfrey began in a lengthy statement carried by many publications and also issued on herOWN website. “She was indeed a Trailblazer. I did my very first television audition with her in mind the whole time. Grateful that she was such a powerful and gracious role model,” she continued in the moving tribute, which showcased a photo of the two women smiling and leaning into one another on set. “Grateful to have known her. Grateful to have followed in her Light.”
This isn’t the first time Winfrey has praised Walters. In 2014 — when Walters retired after 17 years on “The View,” the ABC talk show she created in 1997 — Winfrey surprised the TV pioneer as a guest co-host for her legendary send-off.
“I had to be here for your last show, to celebrate you, because of what you have meant to me,” Winfrey told Walters. “You have literally meant the world to me. … Like everyone else, I want to thank you for being a pioneer and everything that word means. It means being the first; the first in the room to knock down the door, to break down the barriers, to pave the road that we all walk on. I thank you for that. And I thank you for the courage it took every day to get up and keep doing it.”
“As you embark on this next chapter of your life, I wish for all that you also wished for me at the time,” Winfrey added, recalling the support Walters gave her when she retired. “You said to me, ‘I want you to take a little rest.’ I not only want you to rest, I want you to have everything that your heart desires.”
“When I auditioned for my first television job, I walked in not knowing what to do so I pretended to be Barbara Walters,” Winfrey recalled on The View. “I pretended to be her. I sat like Barbara. I crossed my legs like Barbara. I tried to talk like Barbara. I had Barbara in my head for about a year until one night I mispronounced Canada and called it Ca-nada. And that is not what Barbara Walters would do. And it was the first time I had a breakthrough to be myself, but you paved the road for that to happen for me.”