When Barbara Walters died back in December of 2022 at the age of 93, she was lionized as a pioneering journalist who knocked down walls and scaled new heights previously unreached by female reporters.

Perhaps best known for landing the celebrity interview, and often making them cry, Walters won multiple Emmy awards. At the time of her death, her publicist Cindi Berger said, “She lived a big life. She lived her life with no regrets.” Oprah Winfrey called her a “powerful and gracious role model.”

But a new biography about the late television icon challenges that sugar-sweet narrative. The Rulebreaker is written by Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today.

Page suggests that Barbara Walters’ historic career brought her “fame and fortune but not peace.”

Married four times to three men, Walters divorced the same man twice. There were also affairs and high-profile dates. She adopted a daughter with one of her husbands but alluded to painful regrets about her parenting. “I was so busy with a career,” she said. “It’s the age-old problem. On your deathbed, are you going to say, ‘I wish I spent more time in the office?’ No. You’ll say, ‘I wish I spent more time with my family,’ and I do feel that way.’”

Walters once penned an essay for Guideposts magazine in which she recalled some of her childhood memories that explained some of her uneven future:

Growing up, I had very little religious education. Our family was Jewish, but not particularly observant. And yet, in the public schools of Brookline, Massachusetts, I sang Christmas carols, which I still love (my favorite is “O, Holy Night,” although I can’t reach the high notes), and I knew the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…’ All these years later, those words have meaning to me. And, yes, I still pray. Especially on airplanes. And I’m on airplanes a lot.

 It’s impossible to know where Barbara Walters was spiritually at the time of her death, but like fellow talker Larry King, there was no shortage of influential Christians in her life who crossed her path and undoubtedly shared with her the Gospel.

We learn in the Page biography that Walters suffered from lifelong anxiety, never quite feeling settled or good enough. This is partly attributable to Barbara Walters’ father, a nightclub owner who was perpetually unstable both personally and financially.

Bill Geddie, Barbara Walters’ longtime producers, told Page that Walters “was propelled not by her strength but by her uncertainties.”

Our worries and insecurities of childhood often follow us long into our adult years.

Susan Page says Walters was “addicted to the chase” – always reaching for the interview, the promotion, and the prestige of being part of the Fourth Estate.

Since its beginning, Focus on the Family has existed to help couples with their marriages and parents with their daughters and sons. Part of that help consists of providing perspective on the finite number of years we have on this earth, let alone with children in our home.

Years ago, I had the privilege of accompanying Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson to a news/talk radio convention featuring executives from both various networks and some of the largest stations in the country. Dr. Dobson talked about what mattered most – faith and family – and urged those in the room to make them a priority.

This was in the days before widespread cellphones. Just as soon as the speech ended, dozens of men and women made a beeline for the payphones in the lobby. They were calling home to express their love to their parents, spouses, and children.

Family values and those who champion them are often mocked, especially by secularists who see them as ancillary to life’s more important pursuits like fame and fortune. The Barbara Walters story certainly debunks this foolishness, and it’s hardly the first time and it won’t be the last. It’s an age-old story.

Towards the end, Barbara Walters was asked if there was anything she wanted.

Her answer? “More time.”

“Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom,” wrote the Psalmist (Psalms 90:12).

The clock has run out for Barbara, but if you’re reading this, it hasn’t yet run out for you.


Image from Getty.