But ABC isn't obliged to give O'Donnell a nationally televised platform. Barbara Walters, the matriarch of "The View" and its executive producer, is supposed to be a titan of American journalism. She has all the awards any broadcast journalist could ever want. But today she knowingly gives a soapbox to a wacko.
Walters and ABC no doubt will seek comfort in any number of rationalizations, from gooey platitudes about free speech to the glories of diverse opinion to the fundamental unseriousness of Cafe Vienna-moment television. And yes, human train wrecks make for good ratings - which is why O'Donnell may get her desired $40 million when she shops for a new contract.
Granted, "The View" isn't "60 Minutes," so why should we care if the girl talk gets a little silly? After all, Walters has spent much of her career muddying the distinction between entertainment and hard news, what with her saccharine "What kind of tree would you be?" interviews.
Yet there is a difference between taking silly topics seriously and being silly about serious stuff. When you discuss hair-care products or lavish weddings, the subject telegraphs its own triviality. Walters may risk her journalistic reputation jibber-jabbering about such things, but that ship sailed long ago. It's another thing entirely when ABC's most venerated on-air journalist gives a megaphone to someone who frets that poor Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was railroaded, who insinuates that the U.S. government had a hand in 9/11, and who insists Elvis Presley is alive and living on an island with Bruce Lee. (OK, I made that last one up.)
But so far, O'Donnell has gotten a pass because she isn't a mere wacko but a left-wing wacko. If O'Donnell sounded like Pat Robertson, the network would call in the butterfly net right quick. But because O'Donnell's crazy accusations are directed rightward at that evil George W. Bush, it's considered forgivable excess.
So come on, ABC. For your own credibility, send her someplace where she won't be a harm to herself or anybody else, someplace with rubber sporks.
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