Wendy Williams’s popular and often controversial daytime talk show is set to end after 14 years, distributor Debmar-Mercury announced Tuesday.
Williams, sidelined by health issues including covid-19 and complications from Graves’ disease, has not hosted her own show since it returned in October. Shepherd and others, including Michael Rapaport and Kym Whitley, have filled in for her.
Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein called the change “a bitter-sweet moment for us and our partners at Fox. We all have a great love and affinity for Wendy, who grew into a true icon during her 12 incredible seasons as the solo host of a live, daily talk show.” In a statement, they explained their reasoning for the permanent move: “Since Wendy is still not available to host the show as she continues on her road to recovery, we believe it is best for our fans, stations and advertising partners to start making this transition now. We hope to be able to work with Wendy again in the future, and continue to wish her a speedy and full recovery.”
The past few years have been difficult for the talk show host. She fainted during a live airing of a Halloween-themed episode of the show in 2017, which resulted in her taking a three-week leave. In 2018, she said that she had been diagnosed years before with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that can lead to hyperthyroidism.
In early 2019, Williams, who has been open about her struggles with cocaine abuse, said that she had been living in a sober house, though she did not specific why. Less than a month later, she filed for divorce from her husband and longtime manager, Kevin Hunter.
Williams began her career in radio and gained renown for her role as a shock jock on New York’s Hot 97 radio station. As The Washington Post’s Bethonie Butler wrote in a piece on the 10th anniversary of her talk show, during William’s time on radio, her “brash takes on hip-hop culture and celebrity gossip lit up urban radio airwaves” and amassed her a legion of devoted fans, but she also “made some enemies of the very culture she was covering.”
Williams gained a similar following when she launched her television career. Her fans often laud her astonishing openness about her personal life, including sharing details on “The Wendy Williams Show” of her drug addiction and her relationship with Hunter, who was also an executive producer on the series.
Her controversial opinions also earned Williams her fair share of critics — and headlines. In 2018, for example, she drew the ire of #MeToo founder Tarana Burke when she said she was “sick” of the movement, and that R&B singer R. Kelly, who in 2021 was found guilty on nine federal sex trafficking and racketeering charges, “wasn’t a Me Too.”
“It is disgraceful that as wide as your audience is and as many young girls, many Black girls watch your show that you would openly victim blame like you did yesterday,” Burke tweeted at the time. “You are the reason why we can’t make headway in our community around sexual assault.”
Howard Bragman, Williams’s publicist, said in an email that Williams is grateful to Debmar-Mercury, Shepherd and everyone who has supported her show.
“It’s been a challenging time for Wendy as she deals with her health issues,” he added. “She has been assured by Debmar-Mercury that should her health get to a point where she can host again and should her desire be that she hosts again that she would be back on TV at that time.”
Shepherd, whose eponymous “Sherri” will take over Williams’s time slot, said in an Instagram video Tuesday that she plans to put her own spin on the new show.
“You can’t replace Wendy. You can’t take over what Wendy does. What Wendy has created is specifically for Wendy,” the “30 Rock” and “Sex Lives of College Girls” actress said. “I just fill in with my brand of laughter and joy and I try to make it my own. But no one can do what Wendy does … nobody can re-create it. Nobody can take over.”