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Barbara Walters Often Asked Why She Couldn't Say Racial Slur, Whoopi Goldberg Says

Walters got serious backlash for saying the word on a 2011 episode of The View.

A recent discussion on The View led to a reveal from Whoopi Goldberg about series creator and former host Barbara Walters. As the co-hosts of the show were discussing a Missouri teacher who lost his job after being recorded saying the n-word in class, Goldberg claimed that Walters, who was white, often asked Goldberg why she couldn't say the word herself.

Goldberg also recalled how she would respond to Walters, and co-host Sunny Hostin shared her thoughts on use of the word, including within the Black community.

The conversation also served as a reminder of a discussion that happened on the show 12 years ago, during which Walters repeatedly said the n-word and was told by co-host Sherri Shepherd that it made her uncomfortable. Read on to find out more.

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The View panelists discussed an incident at a school in Missouri.

On the Wednesday, May 17 episode of The View, the hosts discussed a recent incident that occurred in Springfield, Missouri, in which a student recorded their white geometry teacher repeatedly saying the n-word and telling another student that he "can say the word" and was not "calling anyone" the racial slur. "I'm just saying right now, as a teacher, if you want to keep your job. This isn't a threat from me," the student says in the clip. The teacher then notices the other student recording the exchange and tells them to put their phone away.

As reported by ABC News, the student who recorded the video was suspended for three days, but their mother is trying to get the suspension removed from their record. Springfield Public Schools told ABC that the teacher was "initially placed on administrative leave," but is "no longer employed" by the school.

Goldberg said Walters often asked about using the slur.

Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters at opening night of "Sister Act" in 2011
Joe Corrigan/Getty Images

During the discussion, Goldberg revealed that Walters used to regularly asked her why she couldn't say the racial slur.

"We used to have this conversation every couple of months on this show, because Barbara would pose that same question: 'Well, why can't I say it?'" Goldberg said.

Walters created The View in 1997 and hosted the show from its premiere until 2014. The TV journalist died in December 2022 at age 92.

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Walters used the word in a 2011 episode.

Barbara Walters at the 2012 Daytime Emmy Awards
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

During a 2011 episode of The View, Walters said the n-word when the group was talking about the nickname for then-presidential candidate Rick Perry's hunting camp. There was a rock at the entrance to the grounds that included the slur. According to a 2011 Washington Post report, the camp was given the name prior to the Texas governor's association with it, but the rock hadn't been removed and the camp was still known by that title. Perry said that it was an "offensive name that has no place in the modern world."

Shepherd told Walters it made her uncomfortable.

Sherri Shepherd and Barbara Walters at a launch party for "Sherri" in 2009
Theo Wargo/Getty Images Lifetime Television

During the 2011 segment about Perry, Walters and Goldberg both said the word; though it was bleeped out on TV. Walters use of the slur was upsetting for Shepherd, who is Black.

"When I heard you say it, it was fine," Shepherd told Goldberg (via CBS News). But she told Walters, "You said it a different way … I didn't like the way you said it. I don't know if it's a semantics thing, but it's something that goes through my body."

Walters responded, "So what you're saying is it's because I'm white, that I shouldn't use the word?" She also said (via Entertainment Weekly), "So, no white person should use that word? I'm repeating what was on the rock."

Shepherd said, "Yeah, it's something about hearing you say it. I don't like it when you use the word. … When you say it, it's a different connotation."

Despite saying the word, Walters also said in the segment, "It's very hard for me to say. The fact that I just said it now gives me chills."

Goldberg shared how she answered Walters' question.

Whoopi Goldberg on the May 17, 2023 episode of "The View"
The View / YouTube

In the May 17 episode, Goldberg said that she responded to Walters' query the same way she would respond to any white person who asked.

"Whenever people who are not Black say this to me, 'Why can't I say it?' I always say, 'Go ahead. You know, I might not punch you out, but somebody else might,'" Goldberg said. "That's up to you to find out. If you're not interested in finding out what happens if you do say it, I suggest you don't say it and just keep moving on with other things."

Hostin, who is Black and Latina, also shared her thoughts on the word. "I know lot of folks in the African American community believe that by using it, they're reclaiming that word," she said. "I don't have that belief. My belief is that it should not be used, because it's a racial slur, by anyone. But, the fact of the matter is that I maintain that this teacher should've stuck to acute angles and triangles and things like that."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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