Just when her many haters were letting out a collective sigh of relief that some of the conservative cattiness might be gone from mid-morning's most pleasant hour of talk, ABC's The View is fighting back against rumors that co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck will be leaving the show next fall. Indeed, they seem kind of happy to have her.
"We have no plans for Elisabeth to leave this show," Barbara Walters said at the top of Monday morning's show, ruining the collective schadenfreude built up since late Friday afternoon, when rumors quickly spread that Hasselbeck had been fired. "Elisabeth helps gives the show perspective and balance," she added. "Right now, the only person who cannot leave this show is me," Walters joked. Here's the full segment:
Now let's backtrack for a moment and look at how this rumor first started. Us Weekly, Mediabistro's TV Newser, and The Hollywood Reporter each had independent, anonymously sourced reports on Friday saying Hasselbeck would be excommunicated from Walters and Co.'s private sewing circle. Amazingly, Us Weekly had the only one of those reports with actual insight into the exit process. "The viewers they polled all said she was too extreme and right wing," their source told Us. ABC's only comment was that Hasselbeck is "on a long term contract."
News of Hasselbeck's impending departure came on the heels of Joy Behar's announced exit, so things were starting to look dire for ABC's highly rated conversation starter. Were things falling apart? Another report on Friday, this time from the New York Daily News, said Walters was considering "stepping down" as executive producer — and that only contributed to the crumbling mothership-for-stay-at-home-mothers narrative. Is there any chance Barbara actually leaves? Certainly not, but perception is everything. Just ask the people running The Today Show at NBC.
But did ABC see an Ann Curry-style mess on their hands, or does the network secretly like having an anti-Curry firebrand to stir the pot? Hasselbeck's actual contributions to The View — and why people (not just liberals!) hate her so much — is more complex than it seems: Sure, she rarely agrees with any of her co-hosts, especially when they talk politics, and the conversations can turn icy pretty quickly. With her perfect blond hair and quarterback husband, she's the icy, rich prom queen surrounded by normal kids at The View's cafeteria table. But the "normal kids" are Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg, and having a firestarter can, weirdly, be good television. Even if internal polling says she's "extreme," was that an anonymous excuse from someone who wanted to see the show go in a new direction, or is extreme a good thing? Even if Hasselbeck is, indeed, unpopular, abrupt changes of any kind be horrible in the very-stable world of daytime television.
And nobody seems too pleased with Hasselbeck sticking around after all — especially after the weekend-long tease. Few people are happy about today's episode in crisis management on Twitter:
:( @realmuthaknows Barbara Walters says she has "no plans" for Elisabeth Hasselbeck to leave The View after 10 years on the panel.— Nichelle Knighton (@nichiee) March 11, 2013
Well, at least this person is happy:
@ehasselbeckGlad you are staying. That's what the View is all about, VIEWS. Have a pleasant day— sherry smith (@ravensfan213) March 11, 2013
So, there you have it. It's a long way away from the fall and just about anything can happen. That many independent reports coming out, regardless of any anonymous sourcing, should leave the writing on kitchen wall, as it were. Our money is on Hasselbeck announcing a departure once she has something else lined up in the middle of the summer.