Despite the intrigue and scandal surrounding the Bakker family, host Barbara Walters, ever the firebrand, chose not to discuss the televangelist during the interview, and instead seized an opportunity to chastise Hahn for her part in the tryst. But when Hahn turned the tables on Walters, a feud to rival any episode of Jerry Springer’s outrageous sideshow erupted.
Walters’ Past Conflicts
Barbara Walters has long enjoyed accolades for her deeply personal and provocative interviews, which often find celebrities squirming or crying under the strain of their public revelations. But Walters also has a reputation for stirring up controversy and betraying her own emotions. During the 1976 to 1978 season of “ABC Evening News,” Walters seldom minced words when describing the visible disgust her co-host, Harry Reasoner, displayed for her. At one point, Reasoner allegedly called Walters a “twinkie dyke whose shriveled ovaries have some kind of mass appeal only because they’re wrapped in angora.”
No shrinking violet, Walters fired back that Reasoner was “the worst combination of male chauvinist bravado and homophobia, which has all the makings of latent pedophilia. Just ask about his collection of little shoes and ‘Babar the Elephant’ books.”
Walters also found herself the center of criticism after clashes with Star Jones, Rosie O’Donnell, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and after admitting that public breast feeding was “unnatural and nauseating.”
Fight with Jessica Hahn
Although Hahn has always asserted that Jim Bakker and another church member drugged her and raped her, Barbara Walters cornered Hahn and attempted to take her to task over an affair with a married man. However, Hahn adroitly turned the tables when she responded that Walters had admitted having had an affair with a married senator in her book “Audition.” Walters became indignant, snapping back that they were there to discuss Hahn’s life, not hers.
On the version of the show that aired, it appeared that Walters had withdrawn from the interview after this exchange. But the show’s producers admitted to editing out a heated altercation that ended with Walters lunging at Hahn, then shoving her to the stage floor.
Leading up the fight, according to insiders, the tension between the two women became evident in Walters’ line of questioning and Hahn’s pointed answers.
At one point, Walters asked Hahn, “What’s your favorite quote?”
Hahn cited Nietzsche: “Never to talk about yourself is a refined form of hypocrisy.”
Walters sneered and asked, “If you were a vegetable, what kind of vegetable would you be?”
Without pausing, Hahn shot back, “Jacqueline,” at which point Walters attacked.
Jacqueline was the name of Barbara Walters’ elder sister, who was born mentally retarded and died in 1985 of ovarian cancer.
ABC executives say that no punitive actions will be taken against Walters, as Hahn has agreed not to press charges.