NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Former television news anchor Bree Walker made history two decades ago for reporting with a disability.
As CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported, Walker is now in the headlines again – this time not for her triumphs, but for her dramatic downward spiral.
Walker, now 61, was a stunning and highly-regarded anchor in the 1980s and ’90s, with CBS 2 in New York from 1987 until 1988, and with sister station KCBS-TV, CBS 2 in Los Angeles, from 1988 until 1994.
She made history and headlines reporting the news with a rare birth defect called ectrodactyly, which results in missing fingers in toes and syndactylism – the fusing of digits together.
But today, Walker is almost unrecognizable – and she is making headlines again, this time with a shocking arrest.
“I remember bits and pieces of it,” Walker said. “I remember that several squad cars pulled up.”
In February, Walker was pulled over by police near Los Angeles and arrested for driving under the influence.
“I was so embarrassed, ashamed, numb, dead inside,” Walker said.
Walker was on the air again now, but it was her mugshot making the news.
“It was terrifying, embarrassing, humiliating,” Walker said. “That’s when I thought: ‘OK, I’m ready. I’m done. I’m done.’”
Walker said she was desperate.
“I could have killed someone that night,” she said.
She said she was also ready to reach her help.
“I need a public eye on me because I’m a public nuisance,” she said.
In the 1980s, Walker was in the public eye as a TV darling. Her bold reporting on ectrodactyly led her to become a champion for people with disabilities.
Walker did a series of reports on the condition for CBS 2 in 1987, and spoke frankly and personally about it on the air.
Walker on CBS 2: “In my case, should I choose to have children, within about 12 to 14 weeks when the fingers and toes develop, I should be able to see whether my child would have this or not, and of course, I have a chance of passing it on.”
Former CBS 2 anchorman Jim Jensen: “And knowing how well you have done in spite your handicap, you would not choose to abort.”
Walker: Well, I consider that a very personal question. I would not.”
Walker eventually had two children who both inherited the condition. She walked away from the anchor desk in Los Angeles to stay home and raise them in 1994.
But they grew up, and Walker’s marriage to former KCBS-TV news anchor and network sportscaster Jim Lampley ended in divorce.
Walker said that was when everything began to fall apart.
“I was trying to disappear and be anonymous,” she said.
And she pretty much was anonymous, until her arrest. Now, she has checked into an outpatient rehab facility.
“I’m enough of a sneaky cheat, liar, that I will lie to myself ,” Walker said. “If things are starting to go too well I’ll find a way to f**k it up. I know that about myself.”
Walker said she is determined to walk this new road to sobriety. But she can also still look back on a career filled with important milestones.
She also hopes going public with her story will help hold her accountable for her actions, and help others struggling with alcoholism.
“I thought, what the hell? I’ve got nothing to be secret about anymore,” Walker said. “If I can help somebody – I was contributing to the epidemic of DUI, so I have to be outed or I’ll be deadly.”
Walker is continuing with her outpatient therapy.
Meanwhile, her court date is set for May 7. This is her first DUI offense.
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