In October, Jennifer Shepard-Brookman, former senior producer of The View, filed a slander lawsuit against Rosie O’Donnell, claiming the former co-host of the ABC daytime program got her fired through accusations of leaking negative stories to the media. In reaction, O’Donnell demanded that the “inflammatory” lawsuit be tossed and that “vague and conclusory allegations about what was said cannot satisfy a defamation plaintiff’s pleading burden.”
If the original complaint really was vague, Brookman now is stepping forward with an amended version (here) that goes into more detail about a staff meeting that took place in mid-January that culminated in the lawsuit at hand.
According to the plaintiff’s legal papers, the meeting was set to discuss the show’s content that day, but O’Donnell began it by addressing the problem the show was having with unauthorized leaks to the media. Here’s what allegedly was said next at the meeting:
“The leaks are out of control this year,” responded Brookman.
“Really, you don’t think the leak is here?” retorted O’Donnell. “Hmm — that’s interesting. Then I would like to know how Radar Online managed to write an article that had word-for-word the conversation about the Beverly Johnson interview that happened on a telephone call including me and three other people.”
O’Donnell is said to have pointed to three producers in the room, including Brookman.
(Radar Online has run a number of stories over the years about backstage tension and a feud between O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg, but nothing we can find that relates to Beverly Johnson, who is one of the women accusing Bill Cosby of rape. By the looks of other references in the court documents, O’Donnell might have been referring at the staff meeting to this December 2014 article in the Daily Mail that reported O’Donnell’s alleged fury upon not being allowed to interview Johnson alongside Goldberg. At the time, O’Donnell’s reps strongly denied the report.)
“Are you saying that one of us is the leak?” asked Brookman.
“Maybe one of you told your teenage son, and he leaked it,” responded O’Donnell.
“You think that I tell my teenage son all about my day at work, and my teenage son picks up a phone, and he calls Radar Online?” asked Brookman.
That, at least, is what is alleged to have occurred at a meeting where Goldberg wasn’t present.
After the meeting, O’Donnell allegedly continued to accuse Brookman of being the leaker. A few weeks later, Brookman was suspended, and O’Donnell left the show. Later that month, Goldberg is said to have sent an email to an ABC executive, stating, “It was dumb to try and reason with the person who accused [Brookman] of being a rat and a leak.”
On March 2, Brookman was terminated.
The lawsuit alleges that O’Donnell acted with malice arising from her desire to assert control over The View and reclaim the role of moderator from Goldberg and that her “knowledge of the falsity of her above-noted accusations against Ms. Brookman is evidenced by her knowledge that Ms. Brookman was not the ‘leak’ of sensitive information to the media, and that she herself may have been the ‘leak’ of sensitive information to the media.”