Sage Steele, a seasoned sportscaster who just left ESPN after reaching a settlement with the major sports media company, has claimed that the late Barbara Walters assaulted her backstage before appearing on “The View.”
“It was Barbara, Whoopi and myself in the dark green room off to the side,” Steele said on “The Megyn Kelly Show”. “I was probably about four feet from the wall and the trash can, Barbara was standing over here in front of me. She just started to back up toward 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 tackle me.”
According to Steele, the claimed incident took place following a discussion of Barack Obama on the ABC daytime talk show. On Jay Cutler’s podcast, Steele made divisive remarks about the former president, describing his decision to identify as Black as “fascinating, considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found.”
Steele continued, “Some of the producers saw it. Whoopi saw it. And Whoopi was like, ‘Come here.’ She was great. 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!”
A representative for the Walters estate responded to Steele’s accusations in an email to Variety, writing: “I find this impossible to believe and uncharacteristic of Barbara!”
From 1997 until 2014, Walters developed, produced, and co-hosted “The View” for 17 seasons. Until her passing in 2022, she continued to serve as an executive producer for the ABC daytime chat show.
For remarks she made on the podcast “Uncut With Jay Cutler” about COVID-19 immunisations, how women dress, and former President Barack Obama’s racial identity, Steele, who joined ESPN in 2007 as a television anchor on “SportsCenter,” was suspended by the Disney-owned network in 2021.
She claimed in a 2022 lawsuit that high-profile assignments were withheld by Disney and ESPN as retaliation for the remarks she made on the outside podcast. She claimed that the businesses had violated her free speech rights and her contract.
“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely,” Steele said in a statement on Tuesday. “I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”