‘Forbes on Fox’ Panel Debates Whether ABC Should Fire Rosie O’Donnell

April 7th, 2007 4:38 PM

Barbara Walters and the folks at ABC should be very pleased with themselves, for all the recent nutty remarks by Rosie O’Donnell precipitated a discussion on Saturday’s “Forbes on Fox” about whether or not the controversial co-host of “The View” should be fired.

Though the group seemed to agree that the current “View” formula of making exceedingly shocking statements might be helping ratings, the consensus was that ABC and Disney were risking their long-term reputations by being associated with such non-stop anti-American sentiments.

As the flow of the discussion was really quite good, and host David Asman did a great job of moderating, what follows is a transcript of this segment without any interruptions or pontifications which might unnecessarily reduce your entertainment pleasure:

DAVID ASMAN, FNC HOST: Rosie O’Donnell, spouting out wild ideas like the U.K. planned the Iranian hostage crisis, and that 9/11 was an inside job that the U.S. took part in. Can all of this help the bottom line of ABC and its parent company, Disney? I don’t see how, but let’s go in focus and find out. Michelle Steele says she knows how. How could that help, Michelle?

MICHELLE STEELE, FORBES.COM REPORTER:  David, for Disney shareholders, this is an unequivocal positive for them. In fact, I’ll go a step farther and say that Rosie O’Donnell should say even more outrageous things. I mean, quite frankly, look at the ratings of “The View.” They’ve never been higher.

ASMAN: So, controversy stimulates ratings, and that’s good for ABC Dennis?

DENNIS KNEALE, MANAGING EDITOR “FORBES”:  It sure does, it sure does up to a certain point. But Rosie has now passed that point of critical mass, and ABC needs to silence her with extreme prejudice. It should fire her. It should get rid of her. She is doing things that are bad for the country and bad for our people and the fact that she brought in like almost triple the viewers of a year ago is not reason enough to keep her on, and she’s going to go way too far.

ASMAN: So, Neil, Dennis says, “Short term it’s good for ABC but long-term they have to get rid of her?”

NEIL WEINBERG, SENIOR EDITOR “FORBES”: Dennis is just wrong. Let’s face it. People are calling her Rosie the Rabble Rouser, Turnaround Rosie. All these crazy things. But that's great for ratings. That’s great for ABC. There’s all these talking heads including us on TV 24 hours a day. It’s all about getting your voice out there and that's what she is doing.

ASMAN: So Jim, any news is good news for ratings?

JIM MICHAELS, EDITORIAL VICE PRESIDENT “FORBES”:  If I were advising a quality product, I would not want it associated with this loudmouth ignoramus and if I were ABC, I’d see as there are a lot better ways to get ratings than have somebody get on the air and abuse our country and oppose the fight against terror.

ASMAN: Alright, Steve, good or bad for ABC and Disney?

STEVE FORBES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF “FORBES”: Oh, short term it’s good, but it’s like a dead cat bounce. After a while the ranting and raving wears thin, and after a while ABC is going to look for another carnival act. It’s like a freak show.

ASMAN: But, you’re big in the media business. But, isn’t that old adage true that as long as you spell the name right it’s good news?

FORBES: After a while no and in terms of the ranting and raving, there’s only one Jerry Springer.

ASMAN: So, Michelle, the boss says you are all wrong?

STEELE: I think the bottom line here, the proof is in the pudding though David, and Steve. Look at the ratings at ABC for "The View." They have never been better, and Rosie is there for one reason and it isn't to ring the Liberty Bell for journalism quite frankly. Nobody’s confusing her with Edward R. Murrow. It's to sell ads.

ASMAN: But Neil if she says things that are so outrageous all the time she becomes predictable, doesn’t she, and then people begin to turn her off.

WEINBERG: But the question is does she loose her credibility and anger people so much --

ASMAN: Lose her credibility? Isn't that long gone?

WEINBERG: I mean, some people think when she says look our media is owned by four big companies and if you want to hear what is going on, listen to media from around the world. People agree with that. But when she says 9/11 was a government plot, people get angry and turned off.

ASMAN: Yeah.

KNEALE: You know, it is one thing to make jokes about the hair of my good friend Donald Trump. It’s another thing to imply that our government was involved in 9/11. Now you’re treading on sacred ground. How dare she, and how dare ABC let her do it.

ASMAN: Michelle, to a point, you get to a point where it becomes a matter of principle where you turn her off if she keeps going this root, don’t you?

STEELE: Exactly. And that's the great thing about a free market economy is that people can choose to turn it off and not read her blog and many people aren’t reading her blog --

ASMAN: People can choose to do that but isn't that in the end bad news for ABC and Disney if they do?

STEELE: Of course if they do but so far they haven't been.

FORBES: Michelle, I have a question for you. Would you allow on a show, your show a holocaust denier and give credibility to that view?

STEELE: Those are two completely different brands, and as far as ABC is concerned, as far as the viewer is concerned…

FORBES: So, saying that the United States government killed 3,000 of its own citizens, where’s the proof?

STEELE: Steve, it’s a coffee klatch. Look at the comments on YouTube. People are unequivocally against Rosie, but they’re still watching.

ASMAN: Yeah, but Neil, I got to say she is this close away from doing what Steve suggested, denying the holocaust. I mean, that’s along the same lines of these 9/11 conspiracy theories.

WEINBERG: I agree, and it’s a very fine line right now. When she starts to spout things like that people get very turned off.  But if she says things that are just enough outrageous, sufficiently outrageous, people are interested.

MICHAELS: Unfortunately there are naïve people out there who believe what she said. If I were ABC, I’d look for long-term profits rather than short term profits. I would dump her.

ASMAN: Dennis, what about that niche audience, there is a niche audience, there are these conspiracy theorists out there, and we don’t like them, but they’re there, and they might keep tuning in to Rosie.

KNEALE: But, that’s the narrowest part. You know, Rosie got her start because she was nice. She needs to go back to being nice. And when you’re this mean, this is anger turned outward. She’s depressed, and she needs to get on medication.

ASMAN: Steve, could advertisers begin to pull their money out would that be the bottom line for this?

FORBES: Sure, you’ve had shows in the past that have had good ratings but good advertisers say, “We don't want to be associated with that.”

ASMAN: You’re saying the same thing, Dennis.

KNEALE: The first time sponsors start to say “I don’t want to be associated with her” then Rosie is going to be hearing a different tune from her (?).  

ASMAN: Michelle, last word from you, if advertisers begin to pull, that’s got to be the bottom line for Disney.

STEELE: Of course, of course. And that’s exactly why they fired Bill Maher about three years ago.

ASMAN: Alright, final word for Michelle, and first word for Michelle.