‘The View’: Barbara Walters Said This Co-Host Took Her ‘Totally By Surprise’ With Her On-Air Announcement
Barbara Walters launched the popular daytime talk show The View in 1997 with an all-female panel. Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar, Debbie Matenopoulos, and Walters brought in a massive audience with their table talk on everything from politics to celebrity relationships. Though their conversations were never scripted, Walters was still taken aback when one of her co-hosts dropped some news on the air.
Star Jones’ popularity began to decline on ‘The View’
While Jones was a fan favorite for several years on The View, she started losing favor with viewers after her lavish, highly-publicized wedding to Al Reynolds in 2004. Walters felt that Jones’ reputation as a “Bridezilla” damaged her position on the show.
“Star, who had begun by being the most popular member of our panel, was now rapidly becoming the least popular,” Walters wrote in her 2008 memoir Audition of Jones following her wedding. “Viewers were saying they didn’t recognize her anymore. She was beginning to appear false, and Star’s popularity had been built on the audience being able to relate to her.”
Focus groups showed that ratings actually decreased with Jones on The View. Though Walters and Bill Geddie were executive producers on the talk show, the network called the shots and decided not to renew Jones’ contract. They privately told Jones of the situation, planning to tell viewers that it was Jones’ decision to leave rather than ABC’s.
“We reassured Star once more that we would never say that the network had dismissed her,” Walters explained. “We would dedicate a full-hour retrospective tribute to her and give her a farewell party on the air. … Star agreed to this.”
Barbara Walters got an on-air surprise on ‘The View’
Jones had told Walters and Geddie that she would reveal the news of her departure on June 29, 2006. Apparently, she had a change of heart and couldn’t wait until the agreed-upon date.
“On Tuesday, June 27, while we were live on the air, Star suddently grasped my hand and Joy’s and said that after ‘much prayer and counsel’, she had decided to leave the program,” Walters recalled. “Her announcement took us totally by surprise. Thinking she had just decided to move up her announcement date, I asked the audience to rise and give her a standing ovation.”
Walters got an even bigger jolt when she found out that Jones had already spoken to the press and shared her own version of her exit, which included the hiring of Rosie O’Donnell.
“Star had, over the previous weekend, given an interview to People magazine,” the legendary journalist remarked. “In the magazine, which was about to hit the newsstands, she announced that she had been fired. It was not the drop in her popularity among viewers that had caused her dismissal, Star insisted, but the ‘new direction’ the show wanted to take – that is, Rosie.”
Barbara Walters and Star Jones mended fences after ‘The View’
Walters was wounded by Jones’ version of the story, where she accused Geddie and Walters of being dishonest.
“She said that unlike the rest of us – that is, Bill and especially me – she was going to tell the truth,” Walters wrote. “Here Bill and I were risking our own reputations for honesty to protect her. Instead she was damaging our credibility. We were very hurt.”
Jones did not return to The View table after that day, and later had her own short-lived show on Court TV. Walters still credited Jones for the initial success of the ABC talk show, and eventually reached out to her former colleague to bury the hatchet.
“I wrote a note to her in the fall of 2007 and asked if we could meet,” Walters shared. “We did… and we embraced each other with sincere warmth.”