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Meredith Vieira is currently moderator of The View, seated alongside Star Jones Reynolds, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and executive producer Barbara Walters. The program premiered in August, 1997, and is broadcast live from New York City. It consists of hot topics in the news, the best experts in their field, celebrity interviews and general entertainment. The View has earned Daytime Emmy Award nominations each year for Ms. Vieira and her co-hosts as Outstanding Talk Show Host. In September, 2002, Ms. Vieira was named host of the weekday version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and received her first Daytime Emmy Award nomination as Outstanding Game Show Host in 2004. In the first two seasons, Millionaire gave away more than 21 million dollars (including two $1 Million-dollar winners). Who Wants to Be A Millionaire is currently in its third season. In March, 2000, Ms. Vieira hosted the ABC Television Network's Countdown to Oscar (the official Oscar preview show), a half-hour program leading into the Academy Awards. The show drew a 22.3 rating and 34 share in the 48 largest viewer markets. In April, 2000, she narrated the ABC Television Network special Open Sesame: The Making of Arabian Nights, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the popular miniseries. Ms. Vieira hosted The Beatles Revolution in November, 2000. The two-hour ABC special -- part musical celebration, part documentary -- examined how much of the world in the year 2000 was inspired by ideas the Beatles popularized during the six years they commanded the world's attention, and the 30 years that followed. In October, 2003, Ms. Vieira hosted a one-hour ABC News special titled Fat Like Me: How to Win the Weight War exploring the epidemic of childhood obesity. The special earned a prestigious Gracie Award.
In January, 2004, Ms. Vieira and her husband, author Richard Cohen, were interviewed by Barbara Walters for 20/20. The interview took an honest glance into their private lives and Mr. Cohen's struggle with multiple sclerosis. Their joint interview garnered the second highest audience in two years with 13.5 million viewers.
Ms. Vieira joined ABC News in October, 1993, as chief correspondent for ABC News' Turning Point, which premiered in March, 1994. In 1995 she garnered her sixth Emmy Award for her report Inside the Hate Conspiracy: America's Terrorists, an in-depth look at a white supremacists' group who became the most wanted criminals in America.
Ms. Vieira has also reported the story of an adoption scam in Oklahoma, which promised hope for childless couples but delivered heartbreak; the heroic story of children successfully battling leukemia; a cautionary tale for the '90s about the rise of heroin use among young people and the middle class; and a feature on the city of Baltimore's first year of mainstreaming disabled students in public schools, which won a 1995 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.
In addition Ms. Vieira interviewed the Framingham Eight -- eight women fighting for a second chance after killing the partners they say abused them -- which won an award from the Foundation of American Women in Radio and Television.
Previously she had spent more than a decade at CBS News, where she garnered five Emmy Awards for her work as a correspondent on the top-ranking news magazines 60 Minutes and West 57th. From 1989 to 1991 she was a co-editor of the CBS News magazine 60 Minutes, reporting such stories as the award-winning Ward 5A, which focused on the first AIDS ward in San Francisco. In addition she won an Emmy for the 60 Minutes report Thy Brother's Keeper, a story on Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust. After two successful seasons, and pregnant with her second child, Ms. Vieira left 60 Minutes.
Ms. Vieira also contributed by frequently anchoring the CBS Morning News and, in addition to that morning assignment, she was also contributing national correspondent on the CBS Evening News With Dan Rather. In June, 1991, she became contributing correspondent for the CBS News primetime series Verdict as well, reporting on actual courtroom trials.
Prior to joining 60 Minutes, she had been a principal correspondent for CBS News' West 57th, since its premiere in August, 1985. In 1989 she received four Emmy Awards for stories she reported on West 57th during its 1987-88 season. Ms. Vieira joined CBS News as a reporter in its Chicago bureau in January, 1982. She was named a correspondent in 1984 and covered Senator Alan Cranston's presidential bid, the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco and, as a correspondent, election night 1984.
Prior to joining CBS News, she was a reporter for WCBS-TV for three years, the CBS-owned television station in New York City. Her assignments included the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit, the trial of Jean Harris in 1981 and a series on child molestation that earned her a Front Page Award from the Newswoman's Club of New York. She also served as a substitute anchor on the station's news broadcasts. Previously she was a reporter and anchor at WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island. She began her career as a news announcer for WORC-Radio in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1975.
Ms. Vieira served as host for The Miss America Pageant (September 1998) and has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, Larry King Live, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Charlie Rose, Celebrity Jeopardy, Live with Regis and Kelly, and Between The Lions on PBS. Ms Vieira appeared on ABC's All My Children in November 2001 and in March 2003 on ABC's General Hospital and The Practice. In April, 2003, Ms. Vieira made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. As an honorary cast member in one performance, Ms. Vieira assumed such roles as Daphne, The Dishwasher and The Speed Tappist. Ms. Vieira had a cameo in the recently released remake of The Stepford Wives in 2004. Ms. Vieira can currently be seen in a national television commercial for Bayer Aspirin.
Ms. Vieira has graced the cover of numerous magazines including TV Guide, Ladies Home Journal and MORE Magazine.
Ms. Vieira is heavily involved with numerous philanthropic organizations and is a frequent contributor to several charitable foundations. She is also part of Club Mom's Senior Advisory Board, as well as one of the seven co-founders, along with actor Andrew Shue, which officially launched in May, 2004. In May 2001, Ms. Vieira received the Safe Horizon Champion Award and from City of Hope the Woman of the Year Award. She has also been honored by the Anti-Defamation League. In April 2004, Ms. Vieira received the Mother of the Year award from The Pajama Program, which collects and distributes bedtime books and pajamas to underprivileged children.
A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Ms. Vieira received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. She and her husband, journalist Richard Cohen, and their three children, live in New York.
Meredith Vieira's family tree
Maureen Taylor helped Meredith trace the scandal and success in her family tree and added the following details:
My ancestors came to America over 100 years ago from the Azores, a group of 9 islands off the coast of Portugal.
The Vieiras, the Rosas, the Silverias and the Costas settled in Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, where thousands of Portuguese immigrants had turned to the sea to make a living.
And from the moment that they hit American shores, my family began a tradition of breaking rules and overcoming barriers.
Instead of working as fishermen or in factories, my descendants published a newspaper and started their own businesses.
I discovered a lineage of strong, educated men and women who would not let social bias dictate how much they could achieve.
And I uncovered the love-at-first-sight romance of my grandparents, one that was considered positively scandalous at the time.
During the first half of the 20th century, tens of thousands of Portuguese immigrants came to this country and faded anonymously into the social fabric of their new homeland, but even after my ancestors became American citizens, they proudly kept their Portuguese roots alive.
Going back in time made me realize that every piece of my family heritage is a gift, and it's my duty to make sure that future generations can enjoy all the memories I'm cherishing right now.
Meredith's paternal grandparents met and became embroiled in scandal in 1896. Antonio Vieira was a priest in Fall River, MA who fell in love with Maria Louise Costa, who was a parishioner. He was in his late twenties while Maria was only 18. The Diocese moved him to Boston to separate them. A year later, they both ran off to Springfield, MA. Maria let her mother know by mail and the police had to restrain the mother because she was so upset. Imagine the scandal if this were to happen now, and this was at the end of the 19th Century! Maria broke with all tradition by doing this.
Antonio and Maria remained married for 50 years, eventually starting their own newspaper. Thus began a long line of educated women in the Vieira family.
Meredith's maternal grandparents owned a laundry business.
Othilia Vieira Petrone was not only Meredith's Aunt, she was also the first Portugese woman to earn a medical degree in 1926. Othilia would go on to become the Medical Examiner for the State of Massachusetts, while Meredith's father would become the same for the State of Rhode Island.
Different view of Meredith Vieira
Meredith Vieira is pondering the intricacies of soup or salad at a casual New York City restaurant when her cell phone rings. It's her husband, Richard. "Hi!" she says. "Yeah, I'm being interviewed. I'm just at the part where I say how I have to take care of you because you're a shadow of a man." What's this? My terminally pleasant interviewer's face freezes into what I suspect is a gargoyle-like grimace. As has been reported and frequently discussed on Vieira's top-rated ABC morning show The View, her husband, writer Richard Cohen, has had to deal with not one but two debilitating illnesses: multiple sclerosis and colon cancer, first diagnosed in 1999 and again a year later. Vieira, in turn, hasn't been able to shed the label of Meredith the Martyr, the woman who's sacrificed her deepest ambitions for the sake of her family, especially her husband. (At the moment, Cohen is cancer free and while the MS has compromised his vision, he's still mobile.)
Make no mistake: Meredith Vieira, 48, is no martyr. Fans of The View -- where Vieira holds forth with Barbara Walters, Star Jones, Joy Behar, and Lisa Ling -- know only too well that this suburban mom who happens to be in TV does exactly what she wants, from announcing to the world that she doesn't like to wear underwear to dressing up to play Sally Bowles and belting out "Cabaret," despite the fact that her voice, as the Dorothy Parkerism goes, has a range from A to B. Not long ago, while trying on a strapless dress for a View segment about proms, a breast fell out on live TV, and the only thing she lamented was that, "I'm so flat chested I don't think anyone noticed."
They'd certainly been noticing Vieira over at CBS, which earlier this year tried to recruit her to help save its morning news and entertainment show. The anchor slot vacated by Bryant Gumbel reportedly would have paid about $5 million a year, more than five times as much as Vieira had been making. With three children in private school and a husband facing a lifetime of medical bills, it seemed like a no-brainer, even given the 4 a.m. wake-up calls and competitive frenzy of early-morning TV. The CBS Early Show was in ratings hell; she had nowhere to go but up.
"Barbara [Walters] was very supportive of me," Vieira explains. "Of course, she was in a weird position, because as [The View's] executive producer she didn't want me to go, but as a friend and mentor... she understood." "Frankly, I was quite sure she'd go," Walters tells LHJ. "I didn't know what ABC would offer her, but even though she's the moderator, The View is still an ensemble show, and [the CBS offer] was so much more than we could pay. There was really a lot of family pressure that went into this decision."
As the days of uncertainty turned to weeks, the tension mounted, both at home and on the set. Vieira says her co-hosts "were trying to be supportive, but, of course, a change on any show... affects everyone's lives." Her colleagues couldn't help but periodically ask how close she was to making up her mind. "I knew this was a big deal -- not just for me but for a lot of people. I didn't treat [the decision] cavalierly."
The question of whether to stay or go also dominated life on the home front. "It wasn't just one day," recalls Vieira, "it was over the course of several weeks. It was entirely my choice, but Richard wanted to know that I was making the decision for the right reason. Every time I thought about it, I thought about the hours, the stress level... and I couldn't get the knot out of my stomach. He made me really examine what I wanted, and I wanted fun and happiness. What's wonderful about The View is that I really like coming to work every day. How many people can say that about their jobs?" In the end, Vieira did what she's always done: "For better or worse, I've always followed my heart," she says, emphasizing once more, with a grin, "and I really, really don't like getting up early in the morning."
Just getting the CBS offer had its benefits. As Vieira says, "It's like when another boy likes you, your boyfriend begins to like you even more." Even if The View couldn't match the CBS salary, ABC sweetened Vieira's new contract by offering her something the network brass couldn't have predicted she wanted in the first place.
Last year, Vieira cornered Who Wants to Be a Millionaire host Regis Philbin at a party and insisted she be a contestant on one of the celebrity editions. It "turned out to be one of the most embarrassing moments I ever had," she says of her appearance. "I got physically sick because I couldn't do that 'fast-finger' thing. It was something easy like, 'Put these words in alphabetical order'-- and I panicked. I was physically ill, crying in the dressing room. You know how you have a certain pride in your intellect? And there I was, losing to TV actors.... Regis kept saying, 'Where'd you say you went to school again?'" (Vieira is a graduate of Tufts University, in Boston.)
She ended up winning $250,000 for charity -- not too shabby. And when the syndicated version of Millionaire needed a host, she lobbied for the job. Not that it took much convincing. "Millionaire is an intimate game show," says its executive producer Michael Davies. "You need someone who can just be a regular person on air. Meredith has that rare quality among broadcasters of being seamlessly herself, the same person off camera as on."
There was yet another factor for Vieira: "Millionaire was one of those shows that was a throwback to my own childhood, when we'd all gather around the TV for a show like Bonanza or something. With my kids it was the same with Millionaire: It felt so nice, the kids [Ben, 13, Gabriel, 11, and Lily, 9] were so into it. Plus, they'd get to see whether Richard and I were smart or stupid. I wanted to be a part of that." When Vieira told her kids she had the Millionaire job, she jokes, "It was the first time they looked at me like I was potentially cool."
Another of the show's perks? A three-day-a-week shooting schedule for 16 weeks a season. And, combined with the provisions of her new View contract, a salary reportedly upward of $4 million. Oh, and she gets to leave work most days in time to greet her children when they come home from school.
And that, for Vieira, is really the whole point. Lots of people in high-profile TV jobs claim to be crazy about spending time with their families; Meredith Vieira, however, has walked the walk. "One thing I admire about her," says The View's youngest co-host, Lisa Ling, "is that she reached the highest level in her chosen profession, working for arguably the most prestigious newsmagazine on the air [60 Minutes], and had to make a choice between work and family. She chose family. You don't have that happening very often today."
Indeed, when Vieira left the highly respected 60 Minutes in 1991 -- after a quick succession of broadcasting jobs -- she became the reluctant poster child for a woman's struggle to balance work and family.
These days, with a job that requires almost no travel, Vieira, herself a jock while growing up the daughter of Portuguese parents in Providence, Rhode Island, can be seen weekends at the soccer field cheering on her children. She drives a minivan and only a minivan, refusing to trade it in because "right now Ben is at that age when he'd like us to drive a cool car, but I don't want him to think he can snap his fingers and that'll just happen so easily." She works her schedule around her kids' school events and even makes a point of keeping her office at ABC, well, a little more than just untidy. ("I was always afraid if I made it an inviting place I would spend more time there.")
As colleague Ling jokes: "I'm a Virgo -- you know, meticulous -- so I can't even walk into Meredith's office."
But the attraction to home life pays off. "The fact is, she wants to be -- and is -- just a regular person," says a mother whose child attends the same school as one of Vieira's kids in suburban New York. "I was on a field trip with her where another mother treated her like Greta Garbo. To her credit, Meredith was exquisitely uncomfortable."
Given her husband's illnesses, does this devotion to family stem from an appreciation of time that grows out of tragedy? "I'm not saying Meredith doesn't cry some days," says Richard Cohen, a former star producer for CBS News who's writing a book about coping with chronic illness. "But the fact is, we're just two people trying to raise three kids; we have a normal household, with all the good things and bad things that everyone else has. We do homework with the kids; we yell at the kids; we punish them; we go to movies with them.... Yes, there are some tough issues, but we go forward and we don't dwell."
A sense of humor about it all doesn't hurt. "Richard and I are both somewhat sarcastic, and I swear that helps," says Vieira. "There are days when it's very difficult. You have to keep a perspective, and that is: Illness is a part of your life, but it doesn't control your life. I also think in a family, it's best to be upfront with your kids, because even if you think they don't know what's going on, believe me, they know."
If there is one aspect of Cohen's illness that haunts Vieira, that cannot be masked with jokes or irony, it is the question of whether MS can be passed on to her children. Some believe it's a virus, and there may be a family susceptibility to catching that virus. (Cohen's father also suffers from the disease.) "There's no way of knowing if my kids will get it," Vieira says quietly. "The hope is that by the time they are adults there will be a cure."
For all her concern, Vieira doesn't dwell on the possibility of misfortune -- nor does she fret over roads not taken. She thinks instead about going behind the cameras, developing family-entertainment programming and even one day becoming an actress. "I've always been a closet performer," concedes Vieira.
One thing she won't be doing is going back to covering hard news. "When I was making the decision about whether to go to CBS or stay, I thought about 9/11 a lot," she says. "When the towers were destroyed, we were in hair and makeup getting ready to do the show. Years ago, I would have been out the door with a tape recorder and a camera. Now, it was just the opposite.
"Not that I didn't care -- I was angry and broken-hearted. But I don't have that news instinct to go toward the building. Instead, every instinct in my body said: Run away from the building. Gather your family. Go home. Go home."