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Saturday, February 23

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Airbags

By now many of you have heard about Star Jones Reynolds leaving The View — the daytime talk show in which "women of different generations, backgrounds and views" discuss everything from world politics to recipes to fashion and Hollywood — and the public scolding she received from doyenne Barbara Walters for the manner in which Reynolds chose to both announce her departure and how she felt about it.

Star Jones Reynolds was one of the original four hosts when the show bowed in 1997, along with Walters, Meredith Vieira and Debbie Matenopoulos, who was fired in 1999 (reportedly for being too much of an "airhead"). Joy Behar alternated chairs with Barbara Walters until she joined the cast full-time, bringing the total up to five. Matenopoulos was replaced by Lisa Ling, who in turn was replaced by reality show veteran Elisabeth Hasslebeck in 2002.

The View was a fairly innocuous show, not getting an undue amount of attention (although it was skewered on Saturday Night Live several times). That is, until Star Jones agreed to marry Al Reynolds. Immediately upon her engagement in 2004, she began lining up "sponsors" to help fund her wedding. She, in turn, plugged their products on The View. She was dubbed a Bridezilla by many for her zeal, and her extravagant ceremony featured three matrons of honor, 12 bridesmaids, two junior bridesmaids, four flower girls, three best men, 12 groomsmen, three junior groomsmen, six footmen and four ring bearers. Five hundred guests attended.

In April 2006, original host Vieira was tapped to fill Katie Couric's former post on The Today Show. Several weeks later, Rosie O'Donnell was named as Viera's replacement. Recently, O'Donnell had criticized Reynolds for her rapid weight loss, saying on her blog: "Star Jones had weight loss surgery/she had part of her stomach bypassed/that is how she lost 1/2 herself/she refuses to say this/which is her right/but we do not have to pretend/we do not know." Poetic, no? No. At any rate, the possibility of these two outspoken women sharing a stage seemed doubtful to industry insiders. Fast forward to June 27. Star announced she was leaving the show because it was "moving in another direction." July 13 would be her last day on the air. The other women wished her well, and Walters offered, "And, you know, my sadness that it's turned out this way, but it is best, whatever is best for you is what I want, what we all want most for you."

As everyone found out later that same day, it was a load of hooey. Even before the episode was off the air, People magazine released a teaser for its upcoming issue, in which Reynolds said, "I feel like I was fired," after her contract wasn't renewed. This, in turn, pissed off Baba Wawa mightily. She felt "betrayed" and explained that Reynolds' official announcement originally had been scheduled for two days later, June 29. When Reynolds jumped the gun, any carefully calculated plans between her and the show's producers flew out the window.

The next day, June 28, Reynolds was no longer in the opening credits or at The View's table. Walters immediately announced that Reynolds was no longer welcome on the show. "We gave her time to look for another job and we hoped she would announce it here on the program and leave with dignity," Walters declared. "But Star made another choice." Ouch. Website TVGasm heightened the smackdown with an awesome "Passive Aggression" meter that ranges from Disapproving Church Lady to British Royalty.

The war was on.

Reynolds called into Ryan Seacrest's radio show to discuss the situation. She claimed she was booted "because I tell the truth." In The New York Daily News, she added, "For Barbara to say she felt betrayed is the height of hypocrisy."

Walters went to The New York Times [registration required] and insisted, "They had done a great deal of research, and [Reynolds'] negatives were rising. Not so much because of what she did on the air. It was things she did off the air. The audience was losing trust in her. They didn't believe some of the things she said."

On Larry King Live, Star continued to explain her side of the story, never wavering from the fact that she found out in April that her contract wouldn't be renewed, not November as Walters and the producers claim. However, Reynolds did admit that her weight loss wasn't due to diet and exercise alone, which was the impression many people had.

It boils down to she said/she said, although the public tide is obviously flowing with veteran Walters. There were the requisite "Claws Out" and "Catfight" headlines, what with two strong women verbally duking it out via the press. Jones is a lawyer and knows how to use language to her advantage. But Walters has been in the media, literally, longer than Jones has been alive. No kidding. I looked it up.

The View originally was supposed to be about women communicating with each other and discussing differing ideas in a constructive and respectful way. Instead, it has devolved into a completely stereotypical and superficial bitchfest. Allegedly, Walters wanted everything to go smoothly and according to the rules she and other people — including Reynolds' representatives — established. Reynolds, on the other hand, apparently felt that going out on her own terms and according to her own timeline would better fit her purposes. Either way, neither woman came out of this conflict in a particularly flattering light, professionally or personally.

But. Think of the coverage! There is a now very public search to find a female butt to fill that fifth seat, and Reynolds got more press in one week than she did in her nine years on The View. Talk about "Hot Topics."

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at pop@gapersblock.com.

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