Rosie O'Donnell and 'American Idol' in Antonella Barba "racist" feud
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/07/2007
Rosie O'Donnell called American Idol's 2003 decision to disqualify second season semifinalist Frenchie Davis but allow current sixth season semifinalist Antonella Barba to remain on Idol "racist" during Tuesday's broadcast of The View -- a sentiment that apparently didn't sit too well with Idol, which responded by revoking the ABC talk show's permission to air video clips of the Fox reality competition series.
"I think its racist. I really do. I think it's because [Frenchie] is black that they kicked her off," said O'Donnell during Tuesday's The View broadcast.
Davis was disqualified from Idol 2 over nude pictures she posed for at the age of 18, in which she simulated solitary sexual activity for a kiddie-porn website. However Idol producers have decided to not disqualify current sixth season finalist Antonella Barba despite the emergence of numerous provocative photos of the 20-year-old Point Pleasant, NJ native -- a decision Davis and some civil rights activists have suggested might be racially motivated.
"I'm a little upset," said O'Donnell. "Why is it that Frenchie was kicked off and this girl was not?"
The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck suggested Davis was disqualified for "making money" from her photos, while Barba was (presumably) not compensated for the unauthorized release of "private" photos.
"Maybe Frenchie needed the money. [Barba and Davis] are still doing the exact same thing... it doesn't change anything," commented The View guest co-host and George Lopez star Constance Marie. When Hasselbeck said maybe it has something to do with Barba being "hot," O'Donnell couldn't help but chime in again.
"It's weightist too," said O'Donnell. "[Davis is] nude on the Internet and she gets kicked off the show... she's humiliated, disgraced, and limps away with her tale between her legs, while [Barba] is still on. [Barba] can't sing a note by the way."
Similar to her handling of O'Donnell's recent media war with The Apprentice star Donald Trump, The View creator Barbara Walters appeared on Wednesday's broadcast to remind people "Rosie's opinions are Rosie's opinions" -- but the damage seemingly had already been done.
"Here's the thing that's sad," said O'Donnell on Wednesday. "We're no longer given access to American Idol clips. They're apparently mad at us. They don't like us. When I say us I really mean me."
O'Donnell guessed that the tension between herself and Idol began several weeks ago when she chastised the series' sixth season for including audition footage of "the two special ed" hopefuls, referring to Seattle's Kenneth Briggs and Jonathan Jayne. O'Donnell said the animosity only grew when she expressed her "concern about [Idol judge Paula Abdul's] non-attentiveness," referencing previous comments she made questioning what Abdul drinks from her omnipresent Coca-Cola cup.
However the straw that broke the camel's back for O'Donnell was her "saying I thought it was racist and weightist that they put Frenchie off but not Antonella."
"What you don't do is insult them with your left hand and then ask them for favors with their right hand," Walters sternly told O'Donnell and the other View co-hosts on Wednesday. "But it only gives them publicity if we show a clip?," answered O'Donnell.
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Later on Wednesday, Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe released a media statement refuting O'Donnell's claims. "Without wishing to add to the obvious self-promotion of Ms. O'Donnell, I feel as though I must refute her absurd and ridiculous claims that American Idol is racist and/or weightist," Lythgoe stated. ""Ms. O'Donnell has, once again, spoken without thought or knowledge. Viewers need only look at the show tonight to realize that American Idol constantly confirms to America that talent has nothing to do with weight or color."
Duriing Wednesday's The View broadcast, show co-host Joy Behar also questioned why Idol "cares what we say anyway" since the series is already so popular. "You know what we have learned... everybody cares. People don't want to be insulted. People don't want to be hurt," said Walters.
While The View will no longer be able to air clips of Idol, that won't stop its co-hosts from getting their fix.
"They're just not happy with us apparently. But it doesn't matter because we're going to watch anyway," said O'Donnell.
And what about O'Donnell's short-lived crusade for Davis?
"Frenchie doesn't need [Idol], she just starred in a four-year run in Rent on Broadway," said O'Donnell. Added Hasselbeck, "I think she's doing just fine."