Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Photos: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images, Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Woman’s Day
Former ESPN anchor Sage Steele has aleged that the late Barbara Walters physically attacked her backstage on The View in 2014. “I was probably about four feet from the wall and the trash can, and Barbara was standing over here in front of me,” Steele said in a recent interview with Megyn Kelly. “She just started to back up towards me and looked at me and got close and elbowed me. And it pushed me back into the wall and the trash can. I was like, ‘What did [she] just do to me? This 140-year-old woman just tried to like tackle me.’” Steele claims that some of the show producers witnessed the alleged incident, as did co-host Whoopi Goldberg. “[Whoopi] was great,” Sage said. “She pulled me aside in her little area, and she’s like, ‘Don’t you let her do it.’ And I’m like, am I in a movie right now? One of the legends in this industry just tried to beat me up!” Walters, who created The View in 1997 and co-hosted the daytime talk show until 2014, also served as an executive producer until her death last December. A representative for the Walters estate reacted to the allegations by telling Variety over email, “I find this impossible to believe and uncharacteristic of Barbara!” The View did not immediately respond to Vulture’s request for comment.
According to Steele, the alleged altercation happened right after a segment where Walters questioned why Steele doesn’t identify as Black like Barack Obama does. Both Steele and Obama are biracial, and Steele previously caused controversy in 2021 for saying on Jay Cutler’s podcast that the former president’s choice to identify as Black is “fascinating, considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found.” In the same podcast episode, she also made critical comments about COVID-19 vaccine mandates and the way that some women dress. Steele alleged that she was “sidelined” at ESPN in retaliation for her comments, and filed a lawsuit in 2022 alleging that her right to free speech had been violated. She announced this Tuesday that she has “successfully settled” the complaint and officially parted ways with the company.