Barbara Walters died on December 30 at the age of 93. The “pioneering TV journalist” was a liberal, and her bias often showed, but in her day things were different.
Liberals were promoters of Big Government, overly indulgent of socialist dictatorships, and they tended to make light of crime. On the other hand, liberals could engage in civil dialogue and debate with their conservative counterparts like William F. Buckley. He often hosted liberals on his “Firing Line” show on PBS.
In Walters’ day, liberals were also staunch defenders of free speech, on which their careers depended. If liberals engaged in name-calling – “McCarthyism,” “virulent,” “right-wing” and so forth – it tended to be as a last resort, when their arguments had all been exhausted. That is now precisely the case.
Inside every liberal is a totalitarian screaming to get out, and in current conditions, as David Horowitz says, “they’re out.” The woke korps shuns all dialogue on the facts and deploys name-calling – “racist,” “white supremacist” “Nazi” and so forth – as a first resort. And as Elon Musk now confirms, the woke are the strike force of censorship and sworn enemies of the First Amendment.
The liberal Barbara Walters was no model of wokeness. In fact, she displayed a tolerance that has almost entirely disappeared. The pioneer of television journalism became a target of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, (SNL), with the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” Original cast member Gilda Radner mocked Walters’ manner of speech with her Baba Wawa character. Consider the sketch “Not for First Ladies Only,” from October 30, 1976.
Baba Wawa asks Betty Ford (Jane Curtin) and Rosalynn Carter (Laraine Newman) “what has made you a gweat first wady?” Baba wants to know about “more important twaits” and poses a “fwank qwestion, the kind I’m so famous for.” Such as “do you sweep with your husbands?”
They do, and as Rosalynn Carter explains, Jimmy likes to dress up as Eleanor Roosevelt.
Baba Wawa tells Betty and Rosalynn that “neither of you qwawifies to be first wady. I mean you aren’t articuwate, you aren’t informed, you aren’t gwamorous, you aren’t me. I mean, who does qualify to be first wady? Me, Baba Wawa, the first wady of television.”
In another episode, Baba Wawa interviews Henry Kissinger (John Belushi) “the cweator of shuttle dipwomacy” but also a “wegular guy.” Baba wants to know Kissinger’s high point as “secwetawy of state.” Kissinger cites his Nobel peace prize for ending the Vietnam war in 1973. And the low point? “I would say 1975, when the Vietnam war ended.” As this shows, the SNL writers actually knew something, and they spared nobody.
Walters “hated” Radner’s impression, but claimed that changed after her daughter told her to lighten up. Walters never called for an end to Radner’s sketches, demanded her removal from the show, called for cancellation of SNL, or anything of the sort. Liberals of the time could laugh at themselves. Should that be doubted, check out “Dukakis After Dark,” from 1984.
Dukakis, (Jon Lovitz) knows he’s going to lose “badly” so he throws a party, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee. A drunken Ted Kennedy (Phil Hartman) hits on Kitty Dukakis (Jan Hooks). The “greatest living American” Jimmy Carter (Dana Carvey) realizes he is “a downer, a liberal down, a free-spending malaise-ridden liberal downer.” Dukakis confesses that “we represent unpopular and discredited views,” and so on.
A satire of this caliber and content is now hard to find. The woke cannot laugh at themselves and when others laugh at them, the default response is to call names and deploy cancel culture. For the most part, the comedy community falls in line. Nothing like “Hillary after Dark,” appeared in 2008, 2012 or 2016 and there is no modern equivalent to Gilda Radner’s Baba Wawa. As she might say, that is a cwying shame.
Thinks of the possibilities with Rachel Maddow, or other victims of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Imagine what Richard Pryor could do with Keith Olbermann, Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon. Try to picture Pryor’s take on Rachel Levine, Sam Brinton, or Joe Biden, after his proclamation that those who fail to support him “ain’t black.”
Imagine too what Richard Pryor, George Carlin or Lenny Bruce would say to the notion that pompous politicians and woke entertainment figures were off limits. They would not have fallen in line. The woke crowd does just that, with the exception of Ricky Gervais, whose monologue at the 2020 Golden Globes was a rant for the ages.
In similar style, Dave Chappelle finds the humor in those he calls the “alphabet people,” and just about everybody else. The targets may not like it but Dave doesn’t care. That is a requirement for comedy but the woke won’t go there. They only “identify” as comics, and that won’t do.
Gilda Radner didn’t care if she offended Barbara Walters, whose career suffered no damage. The pioneer of TV journalism may find new possibilities in the great beyond.
Walters died on December 30, a day after Pelé and one day before Pope Benedict. Walters can now ask the Pontiff, “what is going on with the Catholic church?” Other interviewees await attention.
Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis and President John F. Kennedy all died on November 22, 1963. Walters could ask JFK what many have long wondered: “Was the CIA involved in your assassination? After 60 years, we still don’t know.”