*On Friday, Rosie O’Donnell revealed that she’ll be leaving both “The View” and her wife, Michelle Rounds.
After a five-month return to “The View,” ABC executives agreed to release her early from an 11-month contract, estimated to be worth $5 million.
In a brief interview with “Entertainment Tonight” over the weekend, O’Donnell attributed her departure to a desire to focus on her family after divorcing with wife Michelle Rounds, whom she married in 2012, and whose first initial she tattooed on her wedding-ring finger. But insiders say that the end of her second marriage, which she candidly talked about with “The View’s” staff, isn’t the only reason she’s leaving.
Variety quotes sources close to the 52-year-old comedian that say she didn’t feel like her strengths were being properly used by ABC,. Compounding the problem were tensions with co-host Whoopi Goldberg and behind-the-scenes executive turmoil at “The View,” which recently shifted to management under ABC News.
Variety says one point of contention was her refusal to wear an earpiece on camera.
Another issue – she used to moderate the show during her first go-round, but that job now belongs to Whoopi, and insiders say this frustrated O’Donnell, because she felt Goldberg was dismissive of opposing viewpoints during some of the show’s key debates. For example, O’Donnell didn’t like what she saw as Whoopi’s refusal to let the co-hosts have a candid discussion about one of the most explosive topics of the past few months: the allegations of rape levied at Bill Cosby by more than two dozen women.
The working relationship between O’Donnell and Goldberg became even more strained as a result of the show’s morning meetings. “The View” staff typically congregated at 9 a.m. each day to brainstorm for the “Hot Topics” segment. O’Donnell didn’t think this gave them enough time to prepare for an 11 a.m. live show, so the meetings were moved to 8:30 a.m.
But the earlier time meant that Goldberg (who commutes into the city each morning from New Jersey) would sometimes arrive a few minutes late. This irked O’Donnell, who interpreted Goldberg’s occasional tardiness as a sign that she wasn’t committed to the job. The meetings eventually moved back to 9 a.m.
During her previous ’06-’07 tenure, which was certainly rocky, O’Donnell increased viewership and made the show relevant again. This year, “The View” has plummeted 9% in its target demo of women 25-54, sometimes even losing the demo race to CBS’ upstart rival, “The Talk.”
The disappointing numbers could be a result of O’Donnell’s different persona on “The View,” where she isn’t as political as the outspoken liberal who once used to trash George W. Bush’s policies and offer Sept. 11 conspiracy theories. The daytime TV star looked uncomfortable and tentative at the “Hot Topics” table this season, and recused herself from long stretches of conversation. ABC executives would often ask O’Donnell to look happier on air, a note that the comedian didn’t appreciate, according to sources.
While O’Donnell remains a skilled interviewer, it’s also clear that she isn’t as attuned to pop culture as she used to be. In 2011, she had a short-lived talk show on OWN and, by many accounts, drove her staff crazy by berating them and constantly changing the format — veering from light celebrity interviews to games with the audience.
But following a near fatal heart attack in 2012, O’Donnell has become even more serious about social issues. During “Hot Topics,” she’d often chime in to plug one of her favorite documentaries, and asked that the show book guests like “Vagina Monologues” writer Eve Ensler and the parents of Matthew Shepard.
These more hard-hitting segments didn’t rate with the daytime audience, which prefers light fare such as discussions about Justin Bieber, “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Bachelor” (a show that O’Donnell doesn’t watch).
Staffers say there weren’t as many backstage fights as there were during O’Donnell’s previous tenure on the show — which included the fallout from O’Donnell mocking Donald Trump’s hair, and creator-exec producer Barbara Walters getting caught in that public feud, as well as a spectacular shouting match with ex-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck on her final day. But the off-stage interactions between O’Donnell and the ABC staff were often cold. “She shut down completely,” one employee says.
O’Donnell didn’t gel much with the staff, and she once singled out certain people in a meeting and accused them of leaking information about her in the press. And she constantly talked about how she had made a mistake in agreeing to return to “The View,” and threatened to quit on several occasions.
Continue reading at Variety.com:
Meanwhile, O’Donnell gave her official reason for leaving “The View” during the red carpet of her HBO documentary, “Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Standup” at the Athena Film Festival Saturday in New York.
“My doctor who was on the panel tonight, Allison Spatz, my cardiologist, you know she has noticed that since I went back, that there was some elevated ratings and things, and you know I am having some stress in my private life at home, I’m having stress in my work environment, and something has to give, so the thing that was most fixable immediately to hopefully lower the level of stress and increase my focus on my health and my family was to not have to go to work every day which I know I am very privileged to have the luxury of not having to… [The View] have been great in understanding that this is a pretty serious matter, and you know, I had a near fatal heart attack two years ago and the stress is really a causing factor of having a second one, so that’s the reason, and I am very happy that they were so accommodating.”