Barbara Walters on Risks and Failures

Act 3: While she says she failed as a news commentator, she later joined Hugh Downs on "20/20."
8:36 | 05/17/14

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Transcript for Barbara Walters on Risks and Failures
Geddie: You have a fear of heights. On this academy award night... Why were you always walking down giant staircases? I'm sorry. I stepped on my skirt. Let's start it again. I am terrified of heights. Her name -- Audrey Hepburn. Aah! Listen, you got to let me hold on when this thing starts. I remember doing a stand-up on an escalator going down. And somebody had to stand on the escalator... Okay. ...Because I was so afraid I might fall. She of Warren beatty, blah, blah, and so on. Barbara Walters, who has been on the NBC "Today" program for 13 years, signed a contract with ABC today. Her contract for a rumored million dollars a year specifies that she'll co-anchor the ABC evening news, among other network appearances. Why did you leave NBC for ABC? I'd like to say they made me an offer I couldn't refuse, but here was my chance -- historic, they told me -- to be the first female co-anchor of a network news program. How big a deal was that in 1976 to have a woman co-anchoring the network news? In those days, nobody thought it was possible. Announcer: Harry reasoner, Barbara Walters bring you the news. I have a new colleague to welcome -- Barbara. Thank you, harry. How many of you watched Barbara Walters last night on her initial -- she started -- Hmm. That will make Barbara real happy. A million dollars, and two guys tuned in. Walters: I was called the million-dollar baby. Even Anwar sadat in an interview talked about how much money I was making. How do you like million-dollars job? I must tell you quite frankly, you know the salary of my job? It is $1,000 only. And I'm working day and night, Barbara. Geddie: Your co-anchor, harry reasoner, wasn't thrilled about sitting next to you. Was it because you're a woman or because he didn't think you were qualified to sit next to him? Harry reasoner did not want a partner. If he was going to have a partner, he certainly didn't want me. He didn't want someone without that "Hard news" background, and he certainly didn't want a woman. I've kept time on your stories and mine tonight. You owe me four minutes. The news business was a man's business. Man: Ready three, take three. Cue Barbara. Good evening. He was insulted. He felt he was being degraded. Harry could never really accept me. Thank you very much, Barbara. Good night. I have to shoot an arrow into Barbara Walters. Aw, you mean you're making her fall in love with harry reasoner? No, harry just paid me to shoot her. Just didn't care. Thank you. It was nice to see you. How about that? Geddie: People did not watch you on the ABC evening news. Did you take that personally? I remember Reading the headline in one of the papers, "Barbara Walters -- failure." I felt I was drowning without a life preserver. The million-dollar contract was not just for me to do the news, but for me to do a series of one-hour prime-time specials. The specials saved my life. Good evening. I'm Barbara Walters. The first one had Barbra streisand and her then-boyfriend and president-elect and Mrs. Jimmy Carter. I don't know how to ask this, so I'll just ask it. Jimmy: Go ahead. But do you sleep in a double bed or twin beds? Double bed. Double bed. Always have. Sometimes we sleep in a single bed, but it's much more comfortable in a double bed. I don't know whether you want to go on anymore, but I don't. I was criticized for doing specials that had people in the news along with celebrities. You can't do both. But people liked them. The specials took on a role of their own. I interviewed Fidel Castro and spent almost a week with him. Do you feel funny crossing the bay of pigs with an American? With friends American. With friend america-- American -- American friends, yes? It is friendship relation. It's a friendly relation. Also, I spent a great deal of time in the middle east and did the first and almost the only interview that the prime minister of Israel menachem begin did with president Anwar sadat of Egypt. They had never talked together before until this interview. Walters: There might be a ray of light, there might be some concession, there might be a somewhat different position down the road? You are always like this, Barbara. I try to ask -- she wants to solve everything. Well -- this is what people are going to be asking of you. Politics can't be conducted like this. I have to keep trying. I went to Tehran to interview the shah and empress of Iran. I'm quoting your majesty. "In a man's life, women count only if they are beautiful, "Graceful, and know how to stay feminine. "You may be equal in the eyes of the law but not in ability. "You have never produced a michelangelo, a Bach, "Or even a great cook. You are schemers. You are evil, all of you." Oh, your majesty, you said all these things. Not with the same words. So you don't feel that women are in that sense equal, that they have the same intelligence or ability? Not so far. Maybe you will become in the future. We can always have some exceptions and find fantastic women. Here and there? But -- yes. Do you feel your wife is one of these rare exceptions? I prefer not to answer. More and more, those specials turned out to be celebrity interviews. ? Mama made for me ? ? made just for me ? dolly, you said, "I felt that I never belonged. I felt I was always different." I wanted more than to just be a farmer's daughter, even though I'm proud to be. I just wanted pretty things. I wanted money to buy the things that I had always been impressed with as a child. I wanted, I guess, to be a star. Are you worried about putting on weight? No. Oh, yes, we are. Does it matter to you? No, it doesn't. 'Cause I'm so happy and I enjoy eating. I'd rather -- you wouldn't care if you got fat? I amfat. Now. God, yeah. I didn't want to say it. I can hardly get into any of my clothes. You don't care? Not really. God forbid something happened and you were no longer beautiful. No longer beautiful. Would he still love you? This man who loves beautiful women. That's a tough question. I mean, if I'm worth my salt, I should, shouldn't I? Yeah. Yes. Would you? Uh...that -- that's a tough question. Walters: Suppose one of your sons came home and said, "Dad, I've got this girl, and do you mind if -- "You know, we've been stayin' together or living together. You mind if we share a room here in the house?" In our house? Yeah. No chance. You know, it happens in other families. You may need to -- well, it wouldn't happen in my family. I mean, if any one of them did that, I wouldn't speak to them ever again. Ever again? Ever again. Do you mean if one of your sons came home and said, "I'm having... Living with a girl. ..."I like this girl, and I'm living with her, and we're not married," you would never speak to him again? Aloha on the steel guitar. Walters: At the same time I was doing these specials, I was failing as a news commentator. You'd know more than I would, Barbara. The audience, the viewers realized how tense it was. Roone Arledge, who was the president at that time of ABC news, made a big decision. He let harry go, and he bet on me. Around this time, I started to do "20/20." Hugh downs was the host. Tonight up front... Walters: And I think the network felt that maybe it would be an even better show if he had a partner. And it worked. Barbara, I must say, it's nice to share the desk with you again. It's lovely to see you again, and much better hours, don't you think? I think so. I was on "20/20" for 25 years. They were very happy and, for me, productive times.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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