Whoopi on 'The View,' Day Two: She Doesn't Condone Michael Vick's Dogfighting

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By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, September 6, 2007

One day into her new gig on daytime talker "The View," Whoopi Goldberg already was on the defensive for saying Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback who has pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges, was raised in a culture in which dogfighting is acceptable.

"Day One, I step in it immediately," Whoopi said yesterday.

"I was not condoning nor was I saying I thought Michael Vick did anything right," she said in response to news reports that ran along the lines of one paper's headline: "First day on 'The View' and Whoopi Goldberg defends Michael Vick."

"I don't know how this happened -- if you read the papers today I'm eating dogs, I'm swinging them by their tail -- I mean, it's ridiculous!" Whoopi told her studio audience yesterday.

"I have 12 horses. . . . I have cats -- I've adopted cats from various shelters. I love my animals. But I also believe that if there's a problem out there that we can address by checking out where it stems from, that we need to take a look at this," she continued.

"That was my point and I'm very, very sorry -- PETA and I are very close," she said.

And yet, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was among those complaining loudest about what Whoopi had said:

"Please take a moment to read the indictment posted on our Web site . . . and read how these dogs were electrocuted, shot, slammed to the ground, and hanged from trees when they didn't perform well in test fights," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a letter to Whoopi, urging her "not to excuse dogfighters as having some cultural blind spot."

"Just last week, Vick's codefendants testified that Vick was present when eight dogs were hanged -- he watched as they struggled to free themselves from the nooses, and when three didn't die from slow suffocation, they were drowned," Newkirk told Whoopi.

"Animals are as vulnerable to abuse as children are and they need your voice more than Vick does right now."

In her comments on "The View" yesterday, Whoopi played the taken-out-of-context game, saying, "No one has written actually what I said." She insisted she repeated several times she did not condone what Vick did. She also complained that people can't go online and read what she said and that news reports had "edited" her comments rather than printing them in their entirety. Co-star Elisabeth Hasselbeck called it "very crafty" of the press.

When Whoopi introduced the topic at the top of her first day on "The View," she said, "One of the things I haven't heard anybody say is . . . this is not an unusual thing from where [Vick] comes from. It's like cockfighting -- cockfighting in Puerto Rico. . . . There are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of our country.

"He's from the South," she continued. "From the Deep South. Dogfighting is a lot --"

"How about dog torturing and dog murdering?" interrupted "View" colleague Joy Behar.

"Unfortunately, it's part of the thing," Whoopi responded.

"For a lot of people, dogs are sport," Whoopi continued. "So I just thought it was interesting because it seemed like a light went off in [Vick's] head when he realized that this was something that the entire country really didn't appreciate or like."

Barbara Walters asked if Whoopi thought Vick should not have been "sentenced as he was" because "you say it goes with the territory?"

"I thought, if it had been somebody from New York City, my feelings would be very different," Whoopi replied, "but this is a kid, kid to me . . . this is part of his cultural upbringing."

Vick, 27, from Newport News, and three other men were arrested for fighting pit bulls and killing the losers. Vick pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain and is scheduled to be sentenced in early December.

"I'm just saying that instead of just saying he's a beast and he's a monster, this is a kid who comes from a culture where this is not questioned," Whoopi said on her first day moderating "The View."

Yesterday, she complained about the coverage of her first-day comments: "Maybe it's a little indicative of why people don't really say stuff anymore."

* * *

Vacationing TV viewers sent broadcast networks into a ratings nosedive last week, with NBC logging its smallest audience since at least the late '80s. CBS held up best with a lineup of traditional sitcoms, close-ended procedural dramas, a game show and the ever more mind-numbing "Big Brother."

Here's a look at the week's peaks and vales:

WINNERS

"Two and a Half Men." The week's most watched show was also the only show on broadcast or cable to break double digits, clocking 10.3 million viewers.

"The Closer." TNT's drama was ad-supported cable's most watched program of the week with an average of 7.8 million viewers, landing it in the Top 10. Season to date, the Kyra Sedgwick cop drama is up more than 20 percent.

"The Bill Engvall Show." TBS has ordered a 10-episode second season of the retro sitcom starring the blue-collar comedy guy no one could name as a suburban dad with cute wife and three precocious moppets. The show has averaged 3 million viewers this summer.

LOSER

NBC. With the summer's most watched series, "America's Got Talent," wrapped, NBC plunged to 4.1 million viewers, its smallest weekly audience since at least the late '80s when Nielsen began using people-meter viewership measurement technology. That said, ABC clocked only 4.25 million and Fox 4.38 million last week, so NBC was in good company. CBS fared much better, with an average audience of nearly 7 million.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: CBS's "Two and a Half Men," Tuesday "Power of 10," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: NY," "Criminal Minds," Wednesday "Power of 10" and Tuesday "Big Brother"; Fox's "House"; TNT's "The Closer"; and CBS's "CSI."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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