For most of Season 10 of “The View,” which aired from 2006 to 2007, Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck publicly feuded on TV. But in a new book, O’Donnell reveals more complicated emotions about her former conservative colleague.
In “Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View'” by Variety‘s Ramin Setoodeh, O’Donnell talks about the infamous day in May 2007 where she had a 10-minute fight on TV with Hasselbeck about the Iraq War. An excerpt of the chapter, “My Mouth Is a Weapon,” which details what happened and O’Donnell’s subsequent departure from “The View,” will appear in this week’s magazine edition of Variety.
To many viewers, it looked like O’Donnell and Hasselbeck were mortal enemies. But O’Donnell says that wasn’t the case. “I loved her,” O’Donnell says in the book. O’Donnell recalls how she initially tried to mold Hasselbeck by giving her advice about how to debate on TV. “Here’s what I said, ‘I’m the senior. She’s the freshman. I’ve got a really good player on the freshman team, but I have to teach her how to loosen up.'”
There was turmoil behind-the-scenes that year, as O’Donnell tried to take control of the show from creator Barbara Walters and executive producer Bill Geddie. Initially, Hasselbeck sided with O’Donnell.
And then there was this: Joy Behar speculated that O’Donnell had a crush on Hasselbeck, which O’Donnell confirms in the book. “I think there were underlying lesbian undertones on both parts,” O’Donnell says about her working relationship with Hasselbeck. O’Donnell backed up this idea with some dubious evidence. “I think this is something that will hurt her if you write it. She was the MVP of a Division 1 softball team for two years that won the finals. There are not many, in my life, girls with such athletic talent on sports teams that are traditionally male that aren’t at least a little bit gay.”
Although O’Donnell was attracted to Hasselbeck, she never wanted to act on it. “There was a little bit of a crush,” O’Donnell says in the book. “But not that I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to support, raise, elevate her, like she was the freshman star shortstop and I was the captain of the team.” O’Donnell changed sports metaphors from baseball to basketball. “I was going to Scottie Pippen her. If I was Jordan, I was going to give her and the ball and let her shoot. But it was in no way sexualized.”
O’Donnell said that she was deeply hurt by Hasselbeck, and their fight on TV was about more than just politics. The final straw was when Hasselbeck wouldn’t defend O’Donnell from conservative critics. “It felt like a lover breaking up,” O’Donnell says about her last day on TV with Hasselbeck. “The fight that we had, to me as a gay woman, it felt like this: ‘You don’t love me as much as I love you.’ ‘I’ve taken care of you.’ ‘You have not.’ ‘How could you do that to me?’ ‘I didn’t do anything to you.’”
The book also reveals that as a result of the fight, internal research at ABC indicated that Hasselbeck’s likability numbers plummeted with viewers and they never recovered. Seven years later, in March 2013, Hasselbeck was fired from “The View,” because the network wanted the program to become less political. ABC executives thought Hasselbeck was too “polarizing” and she was hurting the show.
When the show’s executive producer Geddie told Hasselbeck that her contract wasn’t being renewed, she started to cry. “Did she know it was coming? I don’t think so,” Geddie says in the book, confirming for the first time that Hasselbeck was fired. “She was emotional. I was emotional.”
“Ladies Who Punch” will be available in bookstores on April 2.