Though she’s one of the most recognized news journalists in the world, Barbara Walters has rarely opened about her private life. When her career took off, she became somewhat of a celebrity and people kept tabs on her as a public figure.
Walters had a number of romances throughout her life but there was one that almost jeopardized the reputation she worked hard to build. A secret affair with a senator wound up causing problems.
Barbara Walters had several paramours in the ‘70s
Barbara Walters started building a name for herself as an anchor for the Today show, and by the time she hit her forties, her popularity hit a stride. It was during this period that she was single and in the dating pool with several suitors seeking her attention.
Walters wrote about this time in her life in Audition: A Memoir, and explained how there was one man who stole her affections. It was 1973 when she first met Senator Edward Brooke, and she didn’t set out to have an affair with him.
She wrote, “I certainly wasn’t lacking for men in my life, or for romance. I was dating more than I ever had. Why, therefore, did I have a clandestine affair with a married man? A Black married man?”
Walters noted that racial tolerance was changing but interracial relationships were not widespread. Such a dalliance would be a scandal in those times because he was not only married, but also a Black man. “None of that seemed to matter to me,” Walters wrote.
Walters and Brooke had a years-long affair
Walters recalled that only her closest friends knew what she was doing and as far as she knew, only one set of Brooke’s friends.
Since she lived in New York and Brooke lived in Washington, D.C., they’d often meet up at his one of his properties or stayed at his friends’ Virginia home. The sneaking around lasted for about two years before Walters started feeling resentful.
Around the same time, people in Washington — and Brooke’s wife — began to have their suspicions, as did a notorious gossip columnist. She started writing about Brooke and Walters. As a result, Walters wanted to end the relationship, but the senator wound up asking his wife for a divorce.
It did not go over well. Mrs. Brooke hired a private investigator and according to Walters, fed information to a friend who worked at the National Enquirer. Stories soon spread.
Walters received a warning that things had to end
Word got back to one of Walters’ acquaintances — someone who used to work in Nixon’s administration — and he warned her the story was about to hit the major news networks. He told her it would nearly ruin her career. She had to think about her future and her daughter.
Walters and Brooke, facing the same career consequences, ended their relationship for good. Walters wrote that she missed him greatly in the beginning, and he still went through with his divorce. But it wasn’t over.
“His wife’s fury led to stories in the newspapers about his private life,” she wrote. Walters recalled that Brooke was accused of hiding funds in his mother-in-law’s bank account to avoid high nursing home fees. He never faced any legal penalties, but it hurt his credibility. He lost his next political race, thus ending his career.
“It was then 1978, and even though it had been several years since we had seen each other, a part of me always felt it was my fault,” Walters reflected. Brooke eventually moved on and married someone else, and so did Walters.