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Candid Whoopi Goldberg Looks Just Rosie To ABC's 'View'

By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 2, 2007

Brash, outspoken, politically liberal Whoopi Goldberg will replace brash, outspoken, politically liberal Rosie O'Donnell as moderator of ABC's daytime gabfest "The View," co-host and executive producer Barbara Walters announced on yesterday's show.

"She's brilliant, she's funny, she's an enormous talent, she's an Oscar-winning actress, a Broadway superstar and we have her!" Walters said excitedly when introducing Goldberg to the equally excited studio audience at the end of the program.

"My goodness, can I handle it?" Goldberg said as she settled into the moderator's seat.

The actress, 51, who has frequently served as a guest panelist on "The View," starts on Sept. 4 when the show's 11th season begins. She will continue to host her nationally syndicated morning radio show, "Wake Up With Whoopi."

"There are so many great opportunities in 'The View' to just sit and sort of explore ideas and learn a whole bunch of stuff that I don't know anything about and have some fun," Goldberg said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Neither Walters nor Goldberg would discuss the specifics of the contract. "We have a commitment," Walters said in a separate interview.

The show, with its unique all-woman format and its candid discussions of current events and the panelists' personal lives, has drawn headlines in the last year, mostly because of O'Donnell's no-holds-barred statements. In the spring, O'Donnell announced she would leave the program in June after not being able to reach contract terms with ABC. But she left in May, three weeks ahead of schedule, after an on-air heated exchange over terrorism with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a frequent political foe.

Besides her tiffs with Hasselbeck, O'Donnell also made headlines when she traded insults with mogul Donald Trump, accused daytime host Kelly Ripa of being homophobic, insinuated that "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul was a drunk and insulted News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch at a public event.

"The View" averaged 3.5 million viewers during O'Donnell's turbulent nine-month stint, a 17 percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier. Among the show's targeted audience of women 18 to 34, "The View" increased 20 percent with O'Donnell as co-host.

Regardless of whether Goldberg will be as controversial as her predecessor, life may not get easier for the politically conservative Hasselbeck with the new moderator sitting across the table. During a John Kerry fundraiser in 2004, Goldberg went on a political rant against President Bush and made a sexual pun using his surname, a joke that cost her an endorsement deal with the diet program Slim-Fast.

In a recent interview with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News Channel, Goldberg said, "I'm still not a fan of the war in Iraq. I think we went in under misguided ideals and with no real way to get out."

During yesterday's show, a beaming Hasselbeck said it was a "thrill" to have Goldberg on "The View."

"We know there's things we don't agree on," Goldberg said in an interview. "But I have to tell you there's a lot of stuff we do agree on, and I'm groovy with it. . . . [Hasselbeck] knows there'll be times when she goes, 'You are crazy,' and I'll go, 'No, you're crazy.' We'll make it fun."

"We are going into an election year," Walters said yesterday in an interview. "No matter who we had on the panel, there was going to be, I'm sure, discussions about various candidates. We feel we can discuss this and have lively discussions that will be fun and exciting, but we're not going out of our way to be confrontational. . . . That's not Whoopi's style."

Despite box office success, Goldberg has been less lucky in television. Her 2003 NBC sitcom, "Whoopi," was canceled after one season, and a late-night show she hosted in the early 1990s lasted just two years.

O'Donnell released a statement yesterday through her publicist about her replacement: "Whoopi is fantastic in every way and is perfect for the job. She's one of my favorites and absolutely amazing."

ABC made no announcement yesterday about a replacement for former panelist Star Jones, who left the show abruptly last year. Several press reports have named stand-up comedian Sherri Shepherd, currently starring in the movie "Who's Your Caddy?," as a likely candidate.

Walters said yesterday that the show has been "in discussion with other people," but that an announcement will likely come after the new season starts in September.

The panel was all giggles and smiles yesterday after Walters's on-air announcement. Walters teased Goldberg about her casual fashion choices, asking her, "Have you thought about your wardrobe?"

"Not one iota," Goldberg responded. "You all look terrific all the time, but I know you wouldn't want me to be anything but me. But I will be a little neater than normal."

Goldberg also said during the show that she is looking forward to the "hot topics" portion of the program, when the women discuss all things buzz-worthy.

But she added: "The thing I'm looking forward to least is trying to get in between everyone talking at one time."

"We're still working on that," Hasselbeck chimed in.

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