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O'Donnell and her The View co-hosts have joined the growing chorus of critics upset about the cruel comments and open ridicule that American Idol's judges and producers heaped on many of the show's contestants during this week's season-opening broadcasts of the sixth season's Minneapolis and Seattle open auditions. 

"It's terribly sad to me," O'Donnell said during a harsh six-plus minute Idol attack broadcast on Thursday morning's The View.  "I don't think America likes to watch people be ridiculed, made fun of, and called ugly monkeys, or that they're too fat or they're a degenerate... it's an absurd concept that this is what's tolerable now as consumption in America for mass media."

O'Donnell was specifically referencing the audition of 23-year-old Kenneth Briggs, a Bothell, WA native who sang N Sync's "Tearing Up My Heart" on Wednesday night's Idol  episode.  When Briggs was done performing, the judge's couldn't contain their laughter, and Simon Cowell's sharp tongue was on full display.

"The dancing was terrible, the singing was horrendous, and you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes," said Cowell to Briggs.   "What are they called?  Bush babies?"

"That's compassion for you," said a sarcastic O'Donnell.  "Isn't that what America thinks is entertainment -- to make fun of someone's physical appearance and then when they leave the room, laugh hysterically at them?"

"It made me so sad to see that last night," The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck added after a clip of Briggs' performance and the judge's reactions were shown.  "[Idol] hit an all-time low last night," said Hasselbeck.  "Apparently it's not about the music anymore."

"Who are these producers... it's not right," added The View co-host Joy Behar.

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Idol 5 finalist Kellie Pickler, who was a guest co-host on Thursday's The View, explained the audition process she went through.  She said all contestants sign a release form allowing Fox to air all parts of the audition on television.  While she said it can be intimidating, it's not unexpected.

"You're very aware exactly what you're getting into," Pickler said.  "You've watched the show before, and this year's not going to be any different than last year."

Hasselbeck stuck to her guns, and said despite the fact that contestants know "the beast they'll be facing when they walk in the [audition] room," it's still "not right."  "I think there should be more social responsibility on [the judges and producers'] end... and personal responsibility," she said.  "It's gone beyond a musical critique... they're making fun of their features, their weight, it's just not right."
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The former Survivor: The Australian Outback castaway's comments appeared to represent a sharp change from her Wednesday morning View comments, when she said she "loved" the Tuesday night's premiere episode of Idol and added that she "laughed a couple times in an evil way."

However O'Donnell never wavered with her comments, saying on Wednesday morning that contestants "don't have to be embarrassed on national TV" and backing that up again on Thursday.  O'Donnell described the judges as "three who's probably intoxicated" -- a reference to her previous comments that she questions what Paula Abdul drinks from her omnipresent Coca-Cola cup. 

"If you keep serving people crap and telling them its a meal, eventually they're going to think it's a meal," said O'Donnell.  "But humilation, in this capacity, of people who are obviously not able to make a decision on whether they are strong enough to handle national humilation, I dunno."

Hasselbeck did say that if the annual Idol competition is determined to find the next "diamond in the rough," maybe weeding through thousands of auditions is one of the drawbacks.  But Behar said those hunks of coal, not just the gems, also help make Idol the monster ratings hit that it's become.

"It's like the new freak show really," said Behar.  "There's an appetite for it out there in the public.  People want to watch it."

However, O'Donnell disagreed.  "I firmly believe that if they put on the people who came closest to making it and you got to hear, for two hours last night, amazing singers who are just almost there, people would tune in too." 

(Photo credit Michael Becker / FOX)