Barbara Walters, Rosie O'Donnell criticize Bush's 'Idol' appearance
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 05/02/2007
Some big names from the entertainment industry have made appearances on American Idol in the past, but never the President of the United States.
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush delivered a video message at the conclusion of Tuesday night's live performance episode featuring Idol's sixth season Top 6 finalists, thanking Americans for their "almost $70 million" worth of contributions to the Idol Gives Back charity event.
"Laura and I are pleased to join you tonight, and thank you for raising millions of dollars for children living in poverty in American and Africa," said President Bush. "We thank all of the American Idol viewers who have shown the good heart of America. We thank all the celebrities who participated, including Bono, and all the contestants who sang their hearts out for these children."
"Because of your generosity," added the First Lady, "African children will receive meds to protect against malaria, and some of America's poorest children will get medical care and healthy food."
"Say Laura, you think I ought to sing something?" President Bush asked the First Lady, who replied, "I don't know darling, they've already seen you dance," a reference to the dance moves he showed off last week with a West African dance troupe for Malaria Awareness Day.
While the thank you from the President and First Lady seemed innocent enough, the unusual appearance is also generating controversy. After discussing the performances of Idol 6 finalists Blake Lewis and Lakisha Jones on Wednesday morning's broadcast of ABC's The View, co-hosts Barbara Walters and Rosie O'Donnell criticized the presidential appearance.
"I think that's great... [but] that there are so many things that the President can come on and thank people for, and perhaps we've been talking about how little money goes to [U.S. military] servicemen who come home and who are wounded and to families who have to struggle, that I just think that it's sort of interesting that they go on the most popular television show," Walters remarked after co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck -- responding to O'Donnell's comment that the appearance upset her a little -- attempted to defend the Bush appearance.
"I'm more disturbed that he's thanking the American public for giving up their money," O'Donnell responded after Hasselbeck, a political conservative, began the discussion by uncharacteristically baiting O'Donnell, an outspoken Bush critic, by asking her if she was "disturbed that [Bush] 'invaded' Idol last night."
"We've asked the American public for money during every tragedy, but you know, [he's spending] $500 billion in Iraq," O'Donnell continued. "But he wants to thank America for the $70 million out of their own pockets that they gave but he doesn't mention the $500 billion he's spent in Iraq. I think it's very distorted."
After Hasselbeck responded that she thought President Bush's Idol message was a "positive one," Walters continued her criticism. "American Idol -- I hate to be cynical because I'm such a wonderful person -- butAmerican Idol could have thanked themselves," said Walters. "I just think it's interesting that the President and Mrs. Bush spent their time and effort to come on a popular television show."
When Hasselbeck suggested all presidents would take advantage of what fourth The View co-host Joy Behar termed "a photo-op," O'Donnell criticized Fox -- which has already been receiving criticism for not increasing its parent company's "10 cents for every one of the first 50 million votes cast" donation pledge to include all of the 70 million viewer votes that last week's Idol Give Back performance show ultimately ended up generating -- for only contributing $5 million to the charity telethon.
"Here's what I would respect Fox if they did, if they matched the money. How much money has Fox made off of American Idol? If they said, 'We will match the [entire] $70 million,' I would go, 'Wow. That's impressive... to think that they're not making money by the increased [ad] revenue [Idol Gives Back's two-hour "results show" broadcast generated for them]... you have to look at that,'" said O'Donnell of "I would prefer that the President spend his time at the funeral of a dead soldier than on American Idol."
"I don't think it's a bad thing for [President Bush] to be on American Idolthanking the people who donated $70 million to this country and also to Africa," Hasselbeck responded before Walters reiterated her skepticism about the appearance.
"I don't think it's a bad thing -- I think it's a fine thing -- I just think it's interesting that of all the different outlets and all the different ways of spending money and with all of the time constraints that the President and First Lady have, that this is what they chose to go on," said Walters.