Is ABC’s ‘The View’ Anti-Catholic?

An interesting discussion ensued on Tuesday’s “Scarborough Country” surrounding ABC’s “The View” and some of the anti-Catholic positions taken by the various co-hosts.

MSNBC general manager Dan Abrams, sitting in for Joe Scarborough, had Catholic League president Bill Donohue on to discuss his ad placed in Tuesday’s New York Times complaining about the behavior of folks like Rosie O’Donnell and Joy Behar while pointing a finger at Barbara Walters for allowing such antics on her program.

After an introduction, Donohue stated (video available here):

[O]bviously, Behar and O‘Donnell are the ones who have made the comments that are untoward, but on the other hand, this is Barbara Walters‘ show.  She doesn‘t simply be a co-producer; she‘s co-owner of the show. 

Now, I can understand that if there were a couple of throwaway lines, you can‘t hold Barbara Walters responsible.  But some of these are scripted.  Other comments are not scripted that are more gratuitous in nature.  In one sense, they‘re even worse.  All she has to do is call them aside after the show and say, “Listen, girls, let‘s knock it off.  Let‘s treat Catholics the way we treat other segments of the population.” 

After Abrams tried to defend these discussions – “But, Bill, as you know, though, on this show, they all sit there, and they kibbutz, so to speak, about everything” – Donohue replied:

Well, because, if you look back at the record, since last Labor Day, we didn‘t find evidence of one untoward comment about blacks or Jews or gays, but we did find that Muslims and Chinese Americans were insulted at least once.  In both instances, there was an on-air apology granted to both of them.  So if you hit Catholics 15 times, one with Muslims, one with Chinese, zero with others, you have to begin to wonder, what the hell is going on with Barbara Walters for allowing this crap?

Abrams later made the point that the Catholic Church sometimes takes political positions thereby leaving itself open for such scrutiny. Donohue replied:

Yes, the Catholic Church takes public positions on a lot of issues, and we‘re fair game for fair criticism.  I think the “New York Times” has been mostly respectful, for that matter, when they criticize the Catholic Church on public policy issues. 

I‘m taking about cheap shots like the Eucharists, you know, making fun of the body and blood of Jesus.  That‘s crossed a line.  That has nothing to do with school vouchers or the school being too strong on sexuality or something of that nature.  Have robust discussion, but keep it above the belt.  That‘s my problem. 

Abrams asked if Donohue was trying to get the show canceled. Donohue marvelously responded:

Unlike Al Sharpton, who wanted the head of Imus—and I think Imus is a great guy who screwed up and he probably should have been suspended but not fired—I didn‘t ask for anybody to be fired.  I didn‘t even ask for an apology.  I‘m simply trying to give her a wake-up call.  After all, I‘ve written to Barbara Walters, to Bill Getty, the executive producer, to Anne Sweeney, who runs ABC-Disney out there, they never answer us.  And, you know, at some point, we‘ve got to say, “Listen, Barbara, call the dogs off.  Tell these girls to just zip it and treat us like as if we were Native Americans.”  That‘s all I‘m doing. 

Yet, the best moment came when Abrams played a clip of Rosie’s comments regarding there being too many Catholics on the Supreme Court. That precipitated quite a debate between Donohue and Abrams' other guest Rachel Sklar of the Huffington Post:

SKLAR:  But, sir, in the wake of the partial-birth abortion ban coming down from the Supreme Court, and you‘ve got five Catholic justices voting to overturn that, how is that not relevant?  How is that not even relevant for discussion, for examination and saying, “Hey, is there a separation here of the religion of these people and what they‘re bringing to the bench?” 

DONOHUE:  You have Ginsburg and you have Breyer who are Jewish, and if you had three other Jewish persons there on the Supreme Court, and they were all pro-choice, and I raised a question of them being Jewish, what do you think I‘d be called

SKLAR:  I mean, it would all depend on the framing of how it was raised.

DONOHUE:  I don‘t think so.  I think I‘d be called an anti-Semite

SKLAR:  I think framing is very important.

ABRAMS:  I guess the only difference, again, Bill—and I think this goes down to the fundamental issue—is that the Catholic Church has taken a public position on this issue.  And I don‘t...

DONOHUE:  Yes, but these guys are not robots.  How come the bean counting only starts with us?  If they took a position in favor of capital punishment...

ABRAMS:  But if let‘s say Jews had taken a position on it, wouldn‘t it change the way the discourse occurred? 

DONOHUE:  Well, I mean, you‘re acting like it—look, Kennedy and these guys, they‘re not just sitting, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right. 

DONOHUE:  We‘re back to this idea that we take the commands from Rome.

What follows is a partial transcript of this segment.

DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST: But first is “The View,” the ABC show, anti-Catholic?  The Catholic League is saying yes.  The organization went as far as to take out an ad in the “New York Times” today which says Barbara Walters has allowed former “View” co-host Rosie O‘Donnell and current co-host Joy Behar to rip Roman Catholicism on 15 different occasions.  And remember that both Rosie and Joy are apparently Catholic. 

We‘re joined now by Bill Donohue, the man behind the ad.  He‘s president of the Catholic League.  And Rachel Sklar, media and special projects editor for HuffingtonPost.com.

All right, thanks a lot for coming on.  We appreciate it. 

All right, Bill, you‘re sort of pegging this on Barbara Walters now. 

Is this really about her? 

BILL DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT:  I think ultimately it is.  I mean, obviously, Behar and O‘Donnell are the ones who have made the comments that are untoward, but on the other hand, this is Barbara Walters‘ show.  She doesn‘t simply be a co-producer; she‘s co-owner of the show. 

Now, I can understand that if there were a couple of throwaway lines, you can‘t hold Barbara Walters responsible.  But some of these are scripted.  Other comments are not scripted that are more gratuitous in nature.  In one sense, they‘re even worse.  All she has to do is call them aside after the show and say, “Listen, girls, let‘s knock it off.  Let‘s treat Catholics the way we treat other segments of the population.” 

ABRAMS:  But, Bill, as you know, though, on this show, they all sit there, and they kibbutz, so to speak, about everything.  They yap about whatever the topic is, and they insult people sometimes.  And they say things that they shouldn‘t say, et cetera.  Why should we be singling out one group and say, “They need to apologize in this case”?

DONOHUE:  Well, because, if you look back at the record, since last Labor Day, we didn‘t find evidence of one untoward comment about blacks or Jews or gays, but we did find that Muslims and Chinese Americans were insulted at least once.  In both instances, there was an on-air apology granted to both of them.  So if you hit Catholics 15 times, one with Muslims, one with Chinese, zero with others, you have to begin to wonder, what the hell is going on with Barbara Walters for allowing this crap?

ABRAMS:  Rachel, what do you make of that?

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Well, I think that there‘s a difference between being anti-Catholic and taking a stance in opposition to the stance of the Catholic Church, on a number of issues, be it abortion, condom use to prevent HIV, gay rights.  I mean, those are up for debate, and “The View” is a debate show.  I think it‘s possible to be respectful of those who have one point of view and one set of beliefs and still be in disagreement with them. 

ABRAMS:  Barbara Walters responded to the ad today.  Well, sort of. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  And I want to remind all of you that I‘m not responsible for anybody‘s else‘s views except mine. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean, Bill, is there an argument that the Catholic Church isn‘t just about religion?  It also takes, you know, political positions at times.  It takes positions that are broader than just saying, you know, “I like a particular or don‘t like a particular religion”? 

DONOHUE:  I think, if that‘s all there is, you have no argument.  And what Rachel says I have no argument.  Yes, the Catholic Church takes public positions on a lot of issues, and we‘re fair game for fair criticism.  I think the “New York Times” has been mostly respectful, for that matter, when they criticize the Catholic Church on public policy issues. 

I‘m taking about cheap shots like the Eucharists, you know, making fun of the body and blood of Jesus.  That‘s crossed a line.  That has nothing to do with school vouchers or the school being too strong on sexuality or something of that nature.  Have robust discussion, but keep it above the belt.  That‘s my problem. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what former “View” co-host Rosie O‘Donnell said about the pope back in October.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, FORMER HOST, “THE VIEW”:  Here‘s the most interesting thing about the “Deliver us from Evil” documentary, that the person who was in charge of investigating all the allegations of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, from the ‘80s until just recently, was guess who?  The current pope. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DONOHUE:  Well, you know what‘s interesting about that?  Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wasn‘t appointed to be in charge of this problem until it broke in the newspapers in January of 2002 with the Boston...

(CROSSTALK)

DONOHUE:  She‘s simply flatly wrong.

ABRAMS:  But let‘s assume she is. 

DONOHUE:  She is.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So assuming that to be the case, what is the remedy here?  I mean, do you want them to close down the show?  Do you want them to start firing people?  I mean, what are you looking for?

DONOHUE:  Unlike Al Sharpton, who wanted the head of Imus—and I think Imus is a great guy who screwed up and he probably should have been suspended but not fired—I didn‘t ask for anybody to be fired.  I didn‘t even ask for an apology.  I‘m simply trying to give her a wake-up call.  After all, I‘ve written to Barbara Walters, to Bill Getty, the executive producer, to Anne Sweeney, who runs ABC-Disney out there, they never answer us.  And, you know, at some point, we‘ve got to say, “Listen, Barbara, call the dogs off.  Tell these girls to just zip it and treat us like as if we were Native Americans.”  That‘s all I‘m doing. 

ABRAMS:  Rachel, what of that?

SKLAR:  What of that?  A very open-ended question.  Well, this is what I think.  I think—I‘m going to go back to scripture here and say judge lest you be charged—just not lest you be judged.  And I think that—

Mr. Donohue, with all due respect, on your own Web site when you talk about Barbara Walters and enabling these anti-Catholic comments, you specify that she is a Jew.  And that didn‘t appear anywhere in the text of the “New York Times” ad.  But I do think that...

(CROSSTALK)

DONOHUE:  I said that—she‘s talking about Jews and catholic.  It‘s interesting, as a Jewish woman, she doesn‘t take shots about Jews.  That‘s entirely contextual.  Now, if you want to make something up about it, you are engaging in the gutter here.

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait, wait.

SKLAR:  Oh, no, no, sir, what I‘m saying is that it‘s relevant.  It‘s a relevant point.  And I know that, you know, you have made comments about Jews before, Jews in Hollywood, and sort of—I mean, I just feel like I have to bring it up. 

DONOHUE:  I‘ve made a lot of comments about priests, let me tell you.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I mean, Rosie and Joy are Catholics. 

DONOHUE:  Ex-Catholic.  And, look, I don‘t care what the source is.  I don‘t care if they‘re Catholic, Protestant or Jew.  That‘s irrelevant to the conversation.  What matters is this, that you‘re allowing somebody who had a bad experience—and let me tell you something, the worst anti-Catholics in the world are not found amongst Protestants, Jews and Muslims, or secularists.  They‘re found in my own community who can‘t give it up, who are stuck in the mud, these regressive types, and who always want to bash the church...

(CROSSTALK)

SKLAR:  Regressive is always bad.  Disrespect is always bad.  I‘m all for respect.  I‘m all for civil discourse and discussing different viewpoints, and that‘s the whole point of the show. 

DONOHUE:  That‘s fine.  But why the cheap shots?

ABRAMS:  Rachel, this is another clip of Rosie and Barbara.  This is talking about the Supreme Court justices.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, FORMER HOST, “THE VIEW”:  How many of the Supreme Court judges are Catholic, Barbara? 

WALTERS:  Five. 

O‘DONNELL:  Five are Catholic, separation of church and state. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Let me play one more.  “The View,” the ladies are trying to discuss the Bible here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”:  I read the Bible as a kid, because I was Catholic. 

O‘DONNELL:  I have been studying the Old Testament for four years once a week in private study, just so you know.  I have, because I didn‘t know anything about it.  Again, Catholic, you just read the missalette. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But, see, you know what?  Let‘s assume you don‘t like the comments they‘re making.  And, again, I think the question here becomes—you really want Barbara Walters to go in and say to them, “Hey, guys, no more discussion of the c-word.  I don‘t want to hear that c-word again on the show.”

DONOHUE:  All I‘m asking her to do is to treat Catholics the way other demographic groups are treated and then you won‘t have to hear from me.  Again, if you took any one of the 15 out of context in isolation, you might say, “Well, what‘s the big deal?  Maybe the Catholic League is overreacting.” 

Cumulatively, we‘ve got 15.  You‘ve got one with Muslims and one anti-Chinese rant, and nothing for anybody else, and I‘m supposed to sit here as the head of the Catholic League and say, oh, this is just fair criticism?  These are little snide comments, and everybody knows it. 

SKLAR:  But, sir, in the wake of the partial-birth abortion ban coming down from the Supreme Court, and you‘ve got five Catholic justices voting to overturn that, how is that not relevant?  How is that not even relevant for discussion, for examination and saying, “Hey, is there a separation here of the religion of these people and what they‘re bringing to the bench?” 

DONOHUE:  You have Ginsburg and you have Breyer who are Jewish, and if you had three other Jewish persons there on the Supreme Court, and they were all pro-choice, and I raised a question of them being Jewish, what do you think I‘d be called? 

SKLAR:  I mean, it would all depend on the framing of how it was raised.

DONOHUE:  I don‘t think so.  I think I‘d be called an anti-Semite. 

SKLAR:  I think framing is very important.

ABRAMS:  I guess the only difference, again, Bill—and I think this goes down to the fundamental issue—is that the Catholic Church has taken a public position on this issue.  And I don‘t...

DONOHUE:  Yes, but these guys are not robots.  How come the bean counting only starts with us?  If they took a position in favor of capital punishment...

ABRAMS:  But if let‘s say Jews had taken a position on it, wouldn‘t it change the way the discourse occurred? 

DONOHUE:  Well, I mean, you‘re acting like it—look, Kennedy and these guys, they‘re not just sitting, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right. 

DONOHUE:  We‘re back to this idea that we take the commands from Rome.

ABRAMS:  All right, fair enough.  All right, Bill Donohue, Rachel Sklar, we‘ll see if anything changes on “The View.”  Rosie‘s gone.  That could change a lot.  All right, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.