1999: ABC's Walters Pressed Lewinsky on Affairs with Married Men

May 9th, 2008 11:37 AM

Years before she admitted her own affairs with married men, ABC's Barbara Walters pressed Monica Lewinsky about her affair with a married Bill Clinton: "Did you ever think about what Hillary Clinton might be feeling?" [audio available here]

At the time, the public wasn’t yet aware of Walters’ own affairs. Now, more than nine years later, Barbara Walters has come forward with stories of her affair in her new book "Audition" something former "The View" co-star Star Jones has publicly denounced saying, "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 […] It speaks to her true character."

This new information on Walters sheds some interesting light on her 1999 "20/20" interview with Monica Lewinsky regarding her affair with President Clinton. As MRC Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham said, "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.'"

In her new book, Walters admits to having had affairs with married men including Claude Philippe, the Waldorf-Astoria's top caterer with whom she talked of getting married but he never divorced his wife. Walters also had affairs with prominent politicians including then-married U.S. Senator Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) and U.S. Senator John Warner (R-Va.). In the interview with Monica Lewinsky, Walters wondered why Lewinsky "kept having affairs with married men," as Lewinsky had an affair with a married man before becoming an intern at the White House. After Lewinsky’s answer, Walters responded with "so you had to take whatever you could get?" My question is, why is no one asking Barbara Walters why she kept having affairs with married men?

Notably, after Senator Brooke left his wife for Walters who then called off the relationship, Walters said she felt only "some guilt" at costing the "superb senator" his re-election, nothing about ruining his marriage. Perhaps she should have asked herself the same question she asked of Lewinsky in 1999. Walters asked, "Did you ever think about what Hillary Clinton might be feeling or would feel if she knew? Did you ever think about Hillary Clinton?" Did Walters think of the wives of the married men with whom she had affairs? Did she ever think of Mrs. Brooke whose husband actually divorced for Walters?

Previously, NewsBusters has reported on softball interviews Walters has encountered while promoting her book [see Colleen Raezler’s May 8 post] and on other media coverage of Walters’ admissions which highlighted her “fascinating” lifestyle as opposed to its immorality [see Tim Graham’s May 7 post].

A transcript of the relevant portions of the interview as aired as part of a special two-hour 20/20 on Wednesday, March 3, 1999 (video and transcript from the MRC's archive):

BARBARA WALTERS: One juror at the grand jury asked why you kept having affairs with married men. Why did you? Why do you?

MONICA LEWINSKY: I have to say that was the most difficult question to answer in my experience with the grand jury. It was the most pointed question. First I hope, I know I will never have an affair with a married man again. I have to pray about that but clearly to me what I've come to see is that that happened because I didn't have enough feelings of self-worth. So that I didn't feel that I was worthy of being number one to a man.

WALTERS: So you had to take whatever you could get?


WALTERS: Did you ever meet Hillary Clinton?

LEWINSKY: I wouldn't say that I've met her and spoken with her in a way that I would feel I know her. It was very briefly, more handshakes.

WALTERS: Monica, did you feel that you were in competition with Hillary Clinton?

LEWINSKY: Sometimes. Sure. I think you'd need to look at that as that she was the wife of this man that I was in love with.

WALTERS: When you saw Hillary Clinton sometimes she was with the President. Did he then acknowledge you in anyway?


WALTERS: Smiling? Saying something?


WALTERS: So he would be with her but you would still know that he was looking at you and thinking of you.

LEWINSKY: mmhmm. [nods]

WALTERS: Did you ever think about what Hillary Clinton might be feeling or would feel if she knew? Did you ever think about Hillary Clinton?

LEWINSKY: I did. I think I thought about her a lot. But I never thought she would find out. I was never gonna talk about this publicly.