"I want to leave while people are still saying, 'why is she leaving?' instead of 'why doesn't she leave?" Walters said.
Joy Behar, her last remaining original co-host on "The View," took issue with Walters saying in her taped intro that she wasn't as beautiful as other women on television. Men on TV don't talk about how handsome they are, she said.
Walters noted that she'd been asked whether she had "slept her way to the top."
"I wish I had, because I would have made it much faster," she said.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by to salute Walters on the live telecast. The audience was stocked with brass from ABC and parent company Disney, including Disney CEO Robert Iger. Walters joked with Iger about appearing on "Dancing With the Stars" together.
"You made a difference in how journalism, particularly television journalism, is done today," Bloomberg said. "You didn't make enemies. You were not nasty about it."
Besides continuing to appear on "The View" and reporting for ABC News in the next year, Walters will host a 20-year retrospective of her most fascinating people series in December, an Oscars special and a career retrospective next May.
"I've had an amazing career — beyond anything I could have imagined," Walters said, "and I hope I have inspired some other women both in front of and behind the camera."