Three weeks ago in this space, I wrapped up my column on Rosie O’Donnell by stating, “Launching personal attacks on Donald Trump is one thing. Accusing your country of trumping up 9/11 and committing war crimes is quite something else. Rosie O’Donnell has cast her fate to an ill wind. Nothing good will come of it.”
That piece of prognostication was easy, and when Rosie announced her exit from ABC this week, it was no surprise. As Ms. O’Donnell became increasingly unhinged on television and in public appearances, the Disney Company, which owns ABC, found itself in an impossible position. Disney has one of the most endearing images in corporate America, and one employee was ransacking that image. Anyone who knows anything about the corporate culture knew the iceberg collision was looming ever closer.
The ship really began listing after Ms. O’Donnell appeared at a chi-chi women’s award luncheon and launched into an obscene tirade against Trump. Scores of corporate power brokers witnessed the embarrassing display, as did some teenage girls who were receiving college scholarships from the “Women in Communications” group. Despite strenuous spinning by Rosie’s handlers, Disney realized that not even Peter Pan could fix this one.
The amazing thing is that Ms. O’Donnell lasted so long. Never in the history of American television has one performer alienated so many people. Rosie compared “radical” Christians to Muslim terrorists. Rosie announced that no American Catholic should be allowed to be a judge because of the Church’s condemnation of abortion. Ms. O’Donnell accused President Bush of committing treason. The hits just kept on coming.
For those of us in the television industry, it was fascinating to watch. While Don Imus was figuratively burned at the stake, and Ann Coulter exiled from polite society for using a gay slur, Rosie kept rolling right along, with Fortune 500 companies paying her way.
The low point for me came when Ms. O’Donnell was defending Alec Baldwin. She looked into the camera and said that she, too, cursed at her kids. Almost in a panic, Barbara Walters said, “But you hug them afterwards.”
Rosie quickly said she did.
The truly bizarre thing about the cursing statement was that some in the audience actually applauded when O’Donnell said it. I was stunned. I looked at the tape five times. What the deuce was going on?
Here’s how I process all of this. Rosie O’Donnell is a far-left individual who has the sympathy of many who believe what she believes, including some in the mainstream press. Unlike Imus and Coulter, O’Donnell’s anti-Bush, anti-conservative tirades were useful to the radical left. If O’Donnell’s opinions could become mainstream, then other radical bomb throwers could get away with a lot more on the tube.
Thus, while Fox News and a few newspapers covered Rosie O’Donnell’s wild adventure, most of the other media ignored it—the same media that had feasted on Imus and Ann Coulter.
In the end, the everyday folks got Rosie, although I do believe she isn’t sad about leaving ABC. Ms. O’Donnell is a woman who wants 100% affirmation; dissent is not tolerated in her life. Disney knew that Barbara Walters and the company, itself, were both taking a public opinion beating and enough was enough. Rosie realized that Disney was no longer thrilled with her act and wanted out.
And so this columnist has reached oracle status, at least for this week. Say goodnight, Rosie.