Barbara Walters Attacks Mimi Alford

February 13, 2012 by

Barbara Walters is an icon in journalism and certainly the woman journalist with the most name recognition in the United States. Unfortunately, her daytime talk show, the View, does not serve women well. Although the show goes for a “you go girl” vibe by having only female co-hosts and chatty dialogue well-sprinkled with outspoken quips, I have seen Walters, along with co-host Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, too often turn their teeth on other women.

This tendency seemed almost exaggerated when Mimi Alford appeared on the show last week to discuss her book “Once Upon a Secret”which details her affair with President John F. Kennedy Jr. when she was just 19 years old. Barbara’s disdain for Mimi is palpable when Walters introduced Alford by stating, “She’ll make a lot of money! You will, Mimi Alford.” Walters mentions the amount of money Alford will make four times during this short interview, not subtly implying that Alford is a money grubbing attention seeker. The interview descended from there. Walters acted shocked by the book’s “lurid details,” particularly mention of the two instances that JFK asked Alford to give his friend on one occasion and his brother on another occasion a blow job while the President watched. Alford kept her composure and responded, “It was very difficult for me to write that piece and I put it in the book, I took it out of the book, I put it in the book, I took it out. I put it in again because it needed to be there because I really needed to remind myself how vulnerable I was and susceptible to power.”

Walters treatment of Alfred continued to go down hill when she accused Alford of being callous toward the Kennedy family for publishing the book, while at the same time questioning why she did not share her story sooner:

Walters: Ms. Alford, I have to bring something up, a problem, because as I said you are going to sell a lot of books… because there are a lot of juicy details and after 50 years you remember all of them. But there are two things that trouble me. One, did you think at all today of Caroline Kennedy who is alive today and her children when you wrote this book which did not have to be written. And also, does the name Monica Lewinsky mean anything to you. Do you think maybe if you had written this book or talked about it then, it might have saved her when she was just being pilloried.

Alford: Well, let’s see to answer the second question first, let me say that when Monica Lewinsky, that’s her story, and when that relationship was revealed, I was still in a place of hiding myself.  In fact, what I worried about at that time was that somebody was going to find me. So there would have been no way that I would have written a story then. And Caroline… there was no motivation or intention in my book to hurt anyone. This is my story…

Walters: I know but you must hurt that family…

Alford: But this was my experience and this was my story and what I needed to do was to write it and to talk about it which is what is happening now and it is actually giving me a voice that I never had.

Walters, it becomes clear, just wishes Mimi had kept her mouth shut and her rage at Alford grew upon hearing Alford’s explanation for why she decided to publish this book now:

Alford: Because in 2003 when I was outed in somebody else’s biography of the President there was a paragraph about me.And shortly after that, I realized I didn’t want to leave my story in someone else’s….

Walters: I read that book, there was one paragraph, very mild, did not go through these details, nobody even remembers it, you could have let it go.

In this interview, Barbara Walters is not a journalist. Nor is she showing herself to be a thought provoking talk show host. Barbara Walters is instead doing all that she can to protect Kennedy’s biography by suggesting that Alford has no right to share her own story. There are always those men who are thought to be beyond criticism and John F. Kennedy Jr. certainly falls into this category. But here was a lost opportunity for Walters to flesh out Kennedy’s biography, warts and all. Because we have learned from Mimi that Kennedy was a man who treated a 19 year old virgin intern like a prostitute beginning with their first encounter. We have learned that he forced drugs upon her in order to enhance sex. We have learned that they never kissed during their 18 month affair and that Alford never called JFK by his name – it was always “Mr. President.” The power dynamics here between a very young and inexperienced woman and who was then the most powerful man in the word should have inspired some thoughtful questions by Walters. But sadly, Walters missed an opportunity to learn about how such an exploitive relationship can impact a woman. Mimi stated of the relationship, “That secret affected my whole adult life.” Barbara’s response? “I know you’re going to sell a lot of books and maybe that will help compensate for any bad memories.”

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