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When ABC News president Kim Godwin suspended Whoopi Goldberg from The View on Tuesday night, the group texts among ABC staff began flying.
Two sources inside ABC News told The Hollywood Reporter they felt that, after Goldberg’s comments about Jewish people and the Holocaust on Monday, the network needed to take action. Indeed, Godwin’s memo to staff Tuesday explaining the suspension touched on those concerns.
“Just last week I noted that the culture at ABC News is one that is driven, kind, inclusive, respectful, and transparent. Whoopi’s comments do not align with those values,” Godwin wrote, adding that “words matter and we must be cognizant of the impact our words have.”
During her Wednesday morning editorial call, Godwin elaborated on that thought to staff, telling them that she “leads with her conscience.”
Godwin has made changing ABC’s culture a priority since joining last year, and Goldberg’s comments had to be addressed to be consistent with that goal.
But within ABC, and among the media commentariat, the perspective that action needed to be taken was not universally shared. Another ABC source said that they felt Goldberg’s sincere apology was enough, especially considering her original remarks weren’t delivered out of hate.
It’s a point of view that was shared elsewhere, including by Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who appeared on Tuesday’s View to discuss Goldberg’s comments.
“Deeply appreciate @WhoopiGoldberg inviting me on to @TheView today to have an important discussion on the importance of educating about the Holocaust,” Greenblatt tweeted Tuesday. “Whoopi has been a long-time ally of the Jewish community and @ADL and her apology is very much welcome.”
On MSNBC Wednesday morning, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough was incredulous.
“She made a terrible mistake. We all make terrible mistakes,” he said. “Who is so frail over at ABC? Who was so frail out there that they can’t understand when somebody makes a mistake, apologizes for the mistake, and takes all the corrective actions that can be taken for that mistake, and they’re still suspended for two weeks?”
Meanwhile, former View co-host Meghan McCain herself weighed in at The Daily Mail, writing in a column that she believed some sort of action was warranted while adding that she felt there is a “unequal standard” for liberals and conservatives.
“There’s a double, triple, and even quadruple standard if you are conservative. If this isn’t an enormous problem for ABC News today, it will grow to be a bigger one,” McCain wrote. “People have less and less tolerance for overpaid celebrities, with every access to education themselves, using their platforms to spew bigotry. And from my experience working in television, the ugly things said casually backstage always have a way of coming out into the light when the camera is on.”
One of the ABC sources noted that The View is, to a large extent, dependent on hosts having “hot takes” on the news, and that it has long been a magnet for controversy (McCain was a frequent target of criticism for comments she made on the program). And with sharp debate and differing opinions a big piece of the program’s secret sauce, they speculated that this won’t be the last time the show has to deal with offensive or ill-informed commentary.
The View made a very brief reference to Goldberg’s suspension at the top of Wednesday’s show, with Joy Behar, taking Goldberg’s place in the moderator’s chair, simply saying, “You all saw the news: Whoopi will be back here in two weeks, OK.”
9:03 a.m. This story has been updated with The View briefly addressing Goldberg’s suspension at the top of the show.
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