Now hear this: Joy Behar is leaving, Elisabeth Hasselbeck is staying.
That was the word from an emphatic Barbara Walters on “The View” Monday morning as the full lineup of co-hosts appeared together for the first time since Behar, 70, disclosed last Thursday that she’s ending her run on the mid-morning ABC talk show after 16 years.
With regret and sadness, Walters confirmed the news about Joy, and then vigorously shot down an Us Weekly story, first reported on Friday and then picked up everywhere over the weekend, that Hasselbeck, 35, would also be leaving.
Walters said the Us story — which cited unnamed sources in reporting that ABC had decided not to renew Hasselbeck’s contract for next season — was wholly “false.”
The Us story reported that ABC was reacting to research it had conducted that indicated Hasselbeck was not well-liked by viewers, due mainly to her politically conservative point of view.
On “The View” Monday, Walters said Hasselbeck isn’t going anywhere. She denied that Hasselbeck’s political views were a problem for the show, and even noted the value of having at least one co-host on the mostly liberal panel with a different viewpoint. (Earlier, a statement from ABC over the weekend insisted that Hasselbeck has a “long-term” contract, indicating that her contract isn’t up for renewal at the present time in any case.)
“There is a particularly false story that keeps getting picked up about Elisabeth’s alleged departure saying that we don’t approve of her conservative views,” Walters said solemnly. “The truth is we love Elisabeth. I like her personally. She’s just a wonderful person. But beyond that, we value and appreciate her point of view. It’s important to us because Elisabeth helps give this show perspective and balance. And believe me, she’s tougher than she looks. She’d have to be to sit here for a decade and take the kind of guff we give her. So we have no plans for Elisabeth to leave this show.”
After setting the record straight on Behar and Hasselbeck, Walters addressed rumors that also began floating around over the weekend that she too is thinking of packing it in. She denied the rumors, saying that, as the show’s producer and boss, she’s the only one of the panelists who is not free to decide, on her own, when she gets to leave. “Right now, the only person who cannot leave this show is me!” Walters declared.
With Behar, Walters, Hasselbeck and fellow co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd all on the show on Monday (following a Friday show that had been pre-taped before the Behar and Hasselbeck news broke last last week), the show itself was the first “Hot Topic” on the agenda Monday morning.
“You know, it’s been kind of a crazy weekend!” said Whoopi before turning the discussion over to Walters, 83. “Joy and I started this show together,” Walters said, referring to the fact that, other than herself, Behar is the last of the show’s original co-hosts. Addressing Joy, she said, “When you announced this last week, it was very bittersweet. I want what’s best for you. I want what’s best for all of you. But I have to say we’ll miss you.”
“I will miss you too, Barbara, believe me,” Joy said. “We’ve been pals.”
Then, before she could become emotional, Joy presented a prepared comedy bit — her “Top Ten Reasons for Leaving ‘The View'”:
“No. 10: ABC won’t let me drink on the air like Hoda and Kathie Lee! [The two “Today Show” co-hosts are famous for drinking wine on their mid-morning show.]
“No. 9: The glare from Bill Geddie’s head is giving me migraines! [A camera then found Geddie, the executive producer of “The View,” who is bald.]
“No. 8: I have a pathological fear of catching childhood diseases like mumps from Barbara! [Walters had just gotten over a case of chicken pox.]
“No. 7: Steve [Joy’s husband] keeps pressuring me to have a five-way!
“No. 6: The contact high from sitting next to Whoopi keeps giving me the munchies!
“No. 5: I find the constant echo coming from Sherri’s cleavage distracting!
“No. 4: My flings with Wolf Blitzer and Regis make a lot of demands on my time!
“No. 3: I’m busy producing a new show for Al Jazeera, ‘The Real Housewives of Fallujah County’! [A reference to the sale of her other network, Current TV, co-owned by Al Gore, to Al Jazeera.]
“No. 2: Like Barbara, I’m developing an unhealthy attraction to Elisabeth!
“And the No. 1 reason why I’ll be leaving ‘The View’: I finally will have a chance to fulfill my dream – going a whole week without putting on a brassiere!”
“And that, my darling Joy, is why we will all miss you!” Walters said.
Behar will continue on “The View” until the show’s final show of the season in midsummer, before it takes its customary hiatus in August before returning for a new season in September.
Now the search is on for Behar’s replacement: The name being mentioned most often lately — Brooke Shields.