ABC’s Barbara Walters showed the 13.2 million viewers who watched her Thursday, Dec. 4 “Ten Most Fascinating People” special that she can swallow pretty much anything but mainstream conservatism.
Walters gave cushy treatment to actors Will Smith, Frank Langella and Scientologist Tom Cruise, Olympian Michael Phelps, comedienne Tina Fey, embarrassingly photographed actress/singer Miley Cyrus, and pregnant "man" Thomas Beatie. She named liberal President-elect Barack Obama 2008’s most fascinating person (see Brent Baker's account), but went head to head against well-known conservative Rush Limbaugh, and ran repeated criticisms of former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Walters asked Palin’s impersonator, Fey, to mock the Alaska Governor one more time, yet challenged Limbaugh to say something "nice" about Obama. Walters did not interview Palin but did air an embarrassing interview clip and a montage of pundits calling her a "drag" on the Republican presidential ticket.
At the end of her interview with Fey, Walters stated, "I want you to, as Sarah Palin, tell me how pleased you are with this wonderful interview that I did, okay?" Fey complied:
FEY as Palin: I think this interview went real good. I think this went better than a couple of the other ones that I did. (Winks.) (Laughs)
WALTERS: (Laughs.) I love you, Sarah Palin.
FEY as Palin: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Fey also told Walters her impersonation wasn’t "mean" because "we stuck to, a lot of times, things that she herself had said." Fey added, "There’s a very strange double standard because it’s a woman portraying another woman. The jokes we used to do about George W. Bush were that he was an idiot. No one ever would stop and say, like, ‘well, that seems kind of mean.’"
Walters failed to ask Fey what she thinks about the news media’s obsession with her unflattering impersonations of Palin.
In contrast to the treatment she gave Fey, Walters’s "heels were on and gloves off" for her interview with Limbaugh.
When Limbaugh claimed he was, "the most unthreatening, tolerant, lovable guy you could ever meet," Walters challenged him to say "something nice about the next president of the United States."
Walters attempted to paint Limbaugh as an elitist simply because he "came from a very good family" and "had money," a charge he quickly rejected. She also challenged him about a line he tossed out during the presidential primary that asked, "Does the country actually want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?" Then, as seen in the transcript below, she challenged his explanation of the comment:
WALTERS: I want to quote something you said. "Does the country actually want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?" You said this about Hillary Clinton.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Yes.
WALTERS: You have watched me get older on a daily basis. Right. Sarah Palin, whom you love, is going to get older on a daily basis.
WALTERS: Men get older on a daily basis. What's with you, Rush?
LIMBAUGH :(Laughs) you know, the context...
WALTERS: (laughs) I never thought I’d be sitting here doing a number with you.
LIMBAUGH: The context of the statement was how unfair our culture is to aging women versus aging men.
WALTERS: You weren't fighting our battle.
LIMBAUGH: I was.
LIMBAUGH: I meant it as a comment on our culture in a sympathetic way.
WALTERS: Okay. I will let that go.
On his show, Limbaugh found media treatment of another exchange with Walters fascinating.