Carol Platt Liebau

Perhaps there was one piece of good news that emerged from reports about Rosie O’Donnell’s crass and vulgar presentation at last Monday’s Matrix Awards luncheon: That many of the attendees – some of them O’Donnell partisans – confessed to having been uncomfortable listening to her expletive-laced tirade. Although many of those critical of O’Donnell’s performance declined to criticize her on the record, their discomfort indicated that not even Manhattan sophisticates have become completely desensitized to traditional notions of taste and good manners.

The luncheon is a yearly event for around 2,000 of the most accomplished women in media, and included 17 high school girls being awarded scholarships. Before this group, O’Donnell repeatedly used the “f word,” talked about giving Donald Trump a “boner,” and concluded a rant about the billionaire by grabbing her own crotch and shrieking, “Eat me!”

Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the British actress who created the role of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, once remarked that she didn’t much care what people did in private, so long as “they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.” Likewise, it’s a matter of profound indifference to most Americans how Rosie O’Donnell conducts herself when she’s surrounded by her circle of personal friends. But her public behavior is another story.

Rosie O’Donnell is no stranger to controversy; as much of the country knows, she has used her platform on “The View” for everything from indulging weird 9/11 conspiracy theories to Catholic-baiting to mocking Chinese accents. But this isn’t about her bizarre personal or political beliefs. It isn’t even about what kind of language is seemly in the presence of the young scholarship recipients. Rather, it’s about the public standards of decorum that all of us are willing to tolerate.

Not too long ago, it would have been completely unnecessary to spell out why the content of O’Donnell’s tirade was so completely inappropriate for a luncheon which, although sponsored by a private group, constitutes a public event. It would have been obvious that cursing, crotch-grabbing, and the gratuitous employment of sexual references were behaviors that were scarcely acceptable anywhere; if they were going to be indulged in at all, they were certainly reserved for private conversations with a few close friends.

Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.