Harry Reasoner Tried (and Failed) to Ruin Barbara Walters’ Ultra-Successful Career

Barbara Walters is a prestigious name in the journalism industry, scoring exclusive interviews with several politicians and stars over the lifetime of her career. Beginning with her successful ABC career with a co-host position alongside Harry Reasoner.

Her career was already climbing in ranks, but ABC’s co-hosting role earned her the title of the first woman anchor. 

Many sexists have tried to downgrade Walters’ ability and skill in the industry, but it was Reasoner who tried (and failed) to ruin her incredibly successful career. As we all know, Walters isn’t one to back down when faced with any challenges. 

Barbara Walters’ success with ABC

Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters | Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

ABC hired on reasoner in 1970 for the Evening News. Five years later, ABC hired Walters as their first female co-host alongside Reasoner, and he was vocally upset by it. Despite his distaste for Walters, her career was on the rise, and there was no stopping her. 

ABC News reports that among several notable interviews, Walters’ conducted interview exclusives with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martha Stewart before and after her trial, President Fidel Castro, former Vice President Al Gore, President and Mrs. Bush, Robert Blake, Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat, Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem, and many, many more.

They also reported one of Walters’ most impressive facts about her career – “[she] has interviewed every American President and First Lady since Richard Nixon.” 

Their strained professional relationship

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Reasoner and Walters’ strained professional relationship began when she was hired on to ABC as the first woman co-anchor, making a substantial amount of money to do so. Reasoner was outspoken about his unhappiness with her hire, and it caused a lot of friction between the two hosts — friction that could clearly be seen on air.

The problem was, Walters was a woman, and most people, Reason included, were sexist and rude about her success.

Walters endured significant backlash and pressure as the first woman to co-host in a male-dominated industry. In an interview with Archive of American Television, Walter explains that she took the time to learn as much as she could about the Yankees to get the stagehands and others to so much as talk to her.

“I would come in with all of this stuff about the Yankees, and at least the stagehands would talk to me. And I would make bets with Harry, and sometimes I would win,” she said. “It was the only kind of communication we had. Otherwise, the studio was cold, and I was frozen out.”

Nonetheless, Walters doesn’t harbor any ill will towards Reasoner. In fact, she explains that no one really understood what he was going through at the time, especially in his home life. “Harry wasn’t mean,” she says. “He was unhappy there. Unhappy with me. And as we learned later, going through many things in his private life that none of us knew about at the time.” 

Harry Reasoner tried unsuccessfully to ruin Barbara Walters’ ultra-successful career

It’s no secret that many men in the journalism industry wanted Walters out. She was constantly challenged and treated harshly by sexists, intimated by her rapidly growing success and achievements. Most notably being Reasoner, whose patronizing manner wasn’t even hidden while the camera was rolling. He tried to ruin Walters’ ultra-successful career — but ultimately failed.

In fact, even though the ratings for the show she co-anchored with him led to her having to step away from it, she still came out on top when ABC 20/20 ‘made a big decision’ to bet on Walters and let Reasoner go.

Before this decision, however, Biography.com notes that critics (including Reasoner) questioned Walters credibility and qualifications, insinuating “the move [was] a publicity stunt by ABC News to cash in on Walters’ ‘star status.'” And although research indicated viewers didn’t exclusively prefer male news anchors, “the ratings for the evening news program were disastrous, and the network released Walters within two years.”

Of course, we all know the rest is history after that. Walters is known for her prestigious journalism career that soon followed, high-stakes interviews, and incredible talent.

She paved the way for the many women journalists that would later make a name for themselves, and it’s all because she wouldn’t back down when sexists like Reasoner tried to ruin her success — just because she was a woman.