Joy Behar, a co-host of “The View,” publicly apologized Tuesday for mocking Vice President Pence’s Christian faith and suggesting that his religious views made him mentally ill.
Her on-air apology came after weeks of protests by viewers who were outraged by her remarks. Behar’s manager, Bill Stankey, told The Washington Post last week that she had privately apologized to Pence during a phone conversation; a White House source said at the time that the vice president had urged Behar to apologize on her show.
Pence has forgiven Behar, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday that his faith had taught him “grace.”
“I give Joy Behar a lot of credit,” he said. “She picked up the phone. She called me. She was very sincere. And she apologized. One of the things my faith teaches me is grace. Forgive as you have been forgiven.”
Still, Pence told Hannity that “I did encourage her and I am still encouraging her to use the forum of that program or some other public forum to apologize to tens and millions of Americans, who were equally offended by what was said.”
The following morning, after a snippet of Pence’s interview was shown on “The View,” Behar delivered her on-air mea culpa.
The controversy began last month, when Behar and her co-hosts were discussing comments that former West Wing staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman had made on “Celebrity Big Brother.”
“He’s extreme,” Manigault Newman said to her fellow contestants about Pence, who has ties to the evangelical community. “I’m Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I’m like, ‘Jesus ain’t saying that.’ ”
That prompted the women of “The View” to critique Pence’s faith on their Feb. 13 program. “I don’t know that I want my vice president, um — speaking in tongues and having Jesus speak to him,” co-host Sunny Hostin said.
Behar responded: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct, hearing voices.”
On C-SPAN the next day, Pence attacked ABC, saying that the network should not have broadcast a “forum that compared Christianity to mental illness.”
“It’s an insult not to me, but to the vast majority of the American people who like me cherish their faith,” he said. “It demonstrates how out of touch some in the mainstream media are with the faith and values of the American people. That you could have a major network like ABC permit a forum for invective against religion like that.”
The right-wing Media Research Center launched an effort to hold “The View” accountable for promoting “anti-Christian bigotry,” which resulted in at least 40,000 protest phone calls made to ABC and at least 6,000 calls to advertisers on “The View” by the end of February.
Last week, top officials at Disney, which owns ABC, addressed the issue during the question-and-answer portion of a shareholder meeting. Justin Danhof, a shareholder and the general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, asked Disney chief executive Bob Iger about what he called the company’s pattern of “bashing conservative or religious Americans.”
He cited Behar’s comments as an example, as well as those of ESPN reporter Jemele Hill, who called President Trump a white supremacist on Twitter last fall. ESPN is also owned by Disney.
Iger told Danhof that Behar had already apologized to Pence, which he believed was “absolutely appropriate.”
During their phone conversation, Behar and Pence discussed how they were both raised Roman Catholic, and how Pence was confirmed in the church, taking the name “Christopher,” according to Behar’s manager.
“Yes, she did speak to Vice President Pence, they had a great, very nice conversation,” Stankey said. “The vice president was very gracious and very understanding. He understood that Joy wasn’t attacking anybody and that there was some miscommunication.”
A White House source, however, told The Post last week that Behar “in no way suggested her comment was a ‘miscommunication.’ ”
“She apologized to the vice president, he accepted and said he wasn’t offended by her comment for his own sake but on behalf of the millions of evangelicals who watch ABC and her show,” the source wrote in an email. “He encouraged her to make the same apology publicly on the show that she did privately to him.”