On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," the ABC program featured a segment on the growing feud between "View" host Rosie O’Donnell and FNC anchor Bill O’Reilly. Although reporter Taina Hernandez did highlight some of Ms. O’Donnell’s more extreme statements, the segment mostly portayed the back-and-forth as simply a celebrity squabble.
And one topic that GMA left out? Any reference to Rosie’s recent on-air touting of 9/11 conspiracy theories. Co-host Robin Roberts previewed the segment with a tease that offered moral equivalence between the FNC host and the woman who recently suggested that the kidnapping of British Marines was a modern day Gulf of Tonkin incident. Roberts wondered, "Has Rosie gone too far this time?" But she quickly covered herself by asking, "Maybe O’Reilly’s crossed the line? We’ll let you be the judge and weigh in on that."
In the segment, which aired at 7:36am, Hernandez oddly avoided using the labels liberal and conservative, perhaps in an attempt to refrain from further damaging Ms. O’Donnell. (Both "Good Morning America" and "The View" air on ABC.):
Robin Roberts: "Move over, Donald Trump because Rosie is in the ring with someone new. We're talking about Rosie O’Donnell and Bill O’Reilly. Now, neither one is exactly shy, let’s just put it like that. But the Fox News host is using his show to take on Rosie, saying she went too far last week on ‘The View’ when she talked about the British hostages in Iran. Keeping a close eye on this is ABC News Taina Hernandez has more [sic]. They Tai."
Hernandez: "Hey. Good morning, Robin. Well, ‘The View’ promises what? Just that. Strong viewpoints. But its newest co-host is becoming best known for sparking strong views from personalities outside the show."
Taina Hernandez: "First it was a celebrity face-off. Rosie versus The Donald."
Rosie O’Donnell: "He's the moral compass for 20-year-olds in America? Donald, sit and spin, my friend."
Donald Trump: "This woman is a disgrace."
Hernandez: "But now Rosie O’Donnell is wading into more serious territory with these comments last week."
O’Donnell: "There were 15 British sailors and Marines who apparently went into Iranian waters and they were seized by the Iranians. And I have one thing to say: Gulf of Tonkin. Google it."
Hernandez: "Enter an outraged Bill O’Reilly and the feud becomes O’Reilly versus O’Donnell."
Bill O’Reilly: "So, according to Rosie O’Donnell, the British set up their own people to be kidnapped to incite another war. Ms. O'Donnell is now actively supporting Iran against her own country and Britain."
Hernandez: "So this time, did Rosie go too far?"
Another odd aspect of the GMA segment is that Hernandez never bothered to explain just what exactly the Gulf of Tonkin incident was. Wouldn’t a brief summery be helpful in discussing the context of O’Donnell’s comments?
Hernandez closed the segment with two clips from a crisis management consultant who attempted to help Rosie out of her predicament. He mentioned the need for Rosie to make clear that she’s not criticizing the troops and Hernandez didn’t wonder if that was her intention.
Fraser Seitel (Crisis Management Consultant): "In this case, she's got an extra push from O’Reilly and she has got to be very, very careful moving forward."
Hernandez: "Rosie, never one to shy away from controversy, has said this on the topic of terrorists."
O’Donnell: "You can walk through life believing in the goodness of the world or walk through life afraid of anyone who thinks different than you and try to convert them to your way of thinking. And I think that this country–"
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: "Well, I'm a person of faith. But I also believe that–"
O’Donnell: "Well, then get away from the fear. Don't fear the terrorists They're mothers and fathers."
O’Reilly: "Don’t fear the terrorists. The question is, what should ABC do?"
Hernandez: "Others are asking what should Rosie should do?"
Seitel: "What she should do is clarify her position. Clarify the fact that she's not defending the terrorists and especially clarify the fact that she's not attacking the American troops."
Hernandez: "This isn't the first time O’Donnell has drawn criticism from Fox News personalities and others. But the show has never shied away from political controversy. No doubt this all will be a big topic of discussion today."
Roberts: "Oh, yeah. Hot topic, I’m sure. We went a couple of months between the two feuds."
Hernandez: "Couple of months and no one is calling for her ouster just yet. But she hasn’t made a lot of friends in certain areas."
First off, this isn’t simply a battle between O’Donnell and FNC hosts. Many have criticized her, including MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.
Secondly, Hernandez and GMA should be given some credit for at least playing some of O’Donnell’s more extreme statements. However, what the ABC reporter left out of her segment was any mention of O’Donnell’s attraction to 9/11 conspiracy theories, including this March 29 discussion:
HASSELBECK: "Do you believe that the government had anything to do with the attack of 9/11? Do you believe in a conspiracy in terms of the attack of 9/11?"
O’DONNELL: "No. But I do believe the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel. I do believe that it defies physics for the World Trade Center Tower Seven, building seven, which collapsed in on itself, it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved, World Trade Center Seven. World Trade Center one and Two got hit by planes. Seven, miraculously, for the first time in history, steel was melted by fire. It is physically impossible."
HASSELBECK: "And who do you think is responsible for that?"
O’DONNELL: "I have no idea. But to say that we don't know it was imploded, that there was implosion in the demolition, is beyond ignorant. Look at the film. Get a physics expert here from Yale, from Harvard. Pick the school. It defies reason."