O'Donnell quits earlier than expected

It’s official: Rosie O’Donnell’s latest catfight with Elisabeth Hasselbeck will be her last on “The View.”

In a statement Friday, ABC Daytime prexy Brian Frons said O’Donnell would not be back for her final three weeks on the show.

“We had hoped Rosie would be with us through the end of her contract three weeks from now, but Rosie has informed us that she would like to take an early leave. Therefore, we part ways, thank her for her tremendous contribution to ‘The View’ and wish her well,” Frons said.

O’Donnell announced at the end of April she was leaving “The View,” and her last day was supposed to be June 20. But after a particularly heated exchange Wednesday with Hasselbeck, the show’s token conservative, she called it quits.

“I’m extremely grateful,” O’Donnell said. “It’s been an amazing year and I love all three women.”

The early departure puts an end to her turbulent tenure on “The View,” which brought the show its best ratings since its debut 10 years ago but also threatened to tear it apart.

O’Donnell single-handedly turned the show around by bringing a sharp political point of view and generating headlines with her public feuds with celebrities like Donald Trump and Kelly Ripa.

ABC declined to renew her contract, in part due to her $10 million per year asking price, and O’Donnell had been a more subdued presence on the show as she finished out the remainder of her contract.

But on Wednesday, O’Donnell and Hasselbeck bickered for more than five minutes about U.S. involvement in Iraq. It had been an ongoing point of contention between the two, but the week before, O’Donnell had quipped, “655,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Who are the terrorists?”

Conservative pundits seized on the comment and on Wednesday O’Donnell challenged Hasselbeck for not defending her.

“I asked you if you believed what the Republican pundits were saying,” O’Donnell said to Hasselbeck.

“Did I say yes?” Hasselback said.

“You said nothing and that’s cowardly,” O’Donnell said.

With show co-creator Barbara Walters out and leaving the rest of the cast without adult supervision, O’Donnell and Elizabeth Hasselbeck went at it with the kind of vitriol usually reserved for the green room.

O’Donnell predicted how the media would interpret the coming exchange: “Here’s how it gets spun in the media: big, sad, loud, lesbian Rosie attacks innocent, pure, Christian Elizabeth.”

On Thursday, Walters returned to declare peace and said O’Donnell had taken the day off to celebrate her partner’s birthday. She denied the show scripts feuds to juice the ratings.

“That’s just absurd,” she said. “The highest ratings we’ve had for ‘The View’ this whole year were in February, when there were no feuds.”

With O’Donnell calling it quits, one wonders how much damage she has done to her effort to sell her own syndicated show to local stations.

Sources said O’Donnell hasn’t yet lined up a syndicator, but is shopping her concept informally, cast as a semi-political talk show along the lines of “Donahue.”

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