Rosie O'Donnell Leaving 'The View' After Contract Negotiations Fail
NEW YORK – Two days after an obscenity-laced rant before an audience that included media elite and high school girls, lightening-rod talk show diva Rosie O'Donnell is leaving "The View" at the end of her first season on the show.
ABC said Wednesday it was unable to agree on a contract with the opinionated host, and she'll leave the show in June.
O'Donnell said in a statement that "my needs for the future just didn't dovetail with what ABC was able to offer me."
"This has been an amazing experience," she said, "and one I wouldn't have traded for the world."
On "The View" on Wednesday, O'Donnell said she would be back on the show "guest hosting and doing specials."
"They wanted me three years, I wanted one year and it just didn't work. I'm not sad — I loved it here," she said.
Show creator Barbara Walters told O'Donnell that she was sad to see her go.
"I'd hoped it would be more than one year. I induced you to come here — we have had, to say the least, an interesting year. An exciting, fun-filled, provocative year. You will be missed.
"I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I did not participate in the negotiations for Rosie — it was ABC … it was between your representatives and ABC Daytime — this was not my doing, not my choice," she added.
According to FOX 411 gossip columnist Roger Friedman, when O'Donnell turned down ABC's offer of a three-year contract, she countered by offering to stay for one more year, for $10 million. They declined, because they wanted a three-year commitment.
Locking in O'Donnell to a three-year deal could have protected ABC from year-to-year increases if ratings, which O'Donnell has helped to raise, continue to be good for the show.
Ratings for "The View" during February sweeps were up 15 percent in key women demographics over the same time in 2006.
While she was good business for ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., O'Donnell's outspokenness has caused almost constant controversy, including the nasty name-calling feud with Donald Trump that placed Walters squarely in the middle.
Walters was frequently left to clean up the damage after O'Donnell. She did it most recently on Monday, when O'Donnell was criticized for using bad language and attacking News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch from the dais of the annual New York Women in Communications awards luncheon.
"I would like to point out that Rosie's view is not always mine," Walters said. "I would like to say for the record that I am very fond of Rupert Murdoch."
In the Trump imbroglio, O'Donnell was reportedly mad that Walters did not come more swiftly to her defense, while Trump said Walters told him she didn't want O'Donnell on the show — a claim Walters denied.
On Wednesday, Trump told FOX News that O'Donnell was fired by ABC because of remarks made at the Women in Communications luncheon.
"I was very happy to see that ABC fired her. Barbara's the happiest person in the world that Rosie's been fired," Trump said.
Cindi Berger, spokeswoman for both O'Donnell and Walters, denied Trump's claim, wondering how he would know what had happened in contract talks between O'Donnell and ABC.
Statements by public figures are being watched more closely in the post-Don Imus era. The lobbying group Focus on the Family said it was preparing to contact advertisers on "The View" as part of a campaign against O'Donnell. The group is angry at O'Donnell for comments they feel were insulting to Catholics.
O'Donnell made headlines repeatedly for comments on "The View," and for testy exchanges with her more conservative partner, Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
She criticized "American Idol" in January for airing humiliating auditions. "Isn't that what America thinks of entertainment? To make fun of someone's physical appearance. And when they leave the room, laugh hysterically at them. Three millionaires, one probably intoxicated."
She accused fellow ABC daytime host Kelly Ripa of making a homophobic remark, said "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America" and has been critical of President Bush.
Bill Carroll, an expert in the syndication market for Katz Television, said he'd be surprised if ABC didn't try hard to keep O'Donnell, given the attention she brought to the long-running show.
The timing of the announcement doesn't particularly suit O'Donnell if she wants to remain in daytime television. She wouldn't be able to introduce a new program to the syndication market until September 2008, he said. But the company that produced O'Donnell's long-running daytime show has expressed interest in having her back, he said.
Before the announcement, rumors swirled Wednesday morning that O'Donnell would leave "The View," two days after she used bawdy humor while emceeing the Matrix Awards on Monday.
O'Donnell's antics occurred Monday in front of 2,000 people at an event feting New York's most accomplished women in media at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom.
• Video: Click here to watch part of Rosie's rant.
The chat-show host dropped the F-bomb as Walters lowered her head and covered her face with her hand. She also concluded a rant about Trump by grabbing her crotch and shouting a profane epithet.
O'Donnell said she was sad when Trump called her "disgusting" and "fat" because it was always her dream to turn on "an old, bald billionaire."
The annual luncheon of New York Women in Communications — which honored gossip columnist Cindy Adams, former "View" moderator Meredith Vieira, author Joan Didion and political blogger Arianna Huffington, among others — featured as presenters Murdoch, "View" co-host Joy Behar, screenwriter Nora Ephron, business icon Martha Stewart and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Also on hand were 17 high school girls who won scholarships to pursue their dreams of careers in media.
"I was offended by how vulgar and common O'Donnell was," Robert Zimmerman, a Democrat active in progressive causes, told the New York Post's Page Six gossip column. "It was especially inappropriate with young people present."
Brandon Holley, editor-in-chief of Jane magazine, told the Post, "I wasn't personally offended, but I thought it was fun to watch other people be offended."
Among those in the crowd were Rudy Giuliani's wife Judith Giuliani, his ex-wife Donna Hanover, TV's Judge Judy Sheindlin, former Cosmopolitan magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown, Geri Laybourne of Oxygen Media, Jane Friedman of HarperCollins and Hearst president Cathie Black.
Berger, O'Donnell's publicist, told the Post: "When you ask for Rosie, you know what you're getting. She's not a shrinking violet. She's a stand-up comedienne. She says things that are provocative."
New York Women in Communications, however, was happy with O'Donnell. The group's managing director, Beth Ellen Keyes, sent an e-mail to her handlers saying, "Rosie was fabulous. Please let Rosie know how much we appreciated her being there. She was just great," the Post reported.
O'Donnell has discussed acting on the FX show, "Nip/Tuck." But she has not decided what she wants to do in TV in the future, Berger said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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