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Rosie O’Donnell weighs in on Ellen DeGeneres controversy


Rosie O’Donnell appears on The Rosie O’Donnell Show in February 1997. (Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Remember when Rosie O’Donnell was known as the “Queen of Nice”?

At the time, the Sleepless in Seattle alum was starring in her own daytime talk show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, known for its giveaways to regular people and high-profile guests like Tom Cruise. It was, basically, The Ellen DeGeneres Show before it existed. Flash-forward a few years and O’Donnell, who ended her show in 2002, had a much different reputation, one for speaking out, after joining The View.

On a new episode of SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show, O’Donnell was asked if being saddled with that label early on had affected her negatively. After all, DeGeneres has said that in her own case, being seen as someone who’s kind to everyone had come back to “bite her in the ass” after she was accused of presiding over a toxic work environment full of, according to former employees, fear, racial insensitivity and sexual misconduct

For O’Donnell, the answer was yes.

“Not in the way that Ellen’s talking about, I think, but, you know, I said the day it came out, look at this the ‘Queen of Nice’ and a couple of years, it’s going to be the queen of lice, the queen of fried rice, you know, the queen of, we don’t like her anymore,” she said. “I have an understanding of the cycle of show business and kind of what happens in people’s careers and when enough is enough. And oftentimes, people don’t know that, you know, I think I have a, a good balance of both in my life of the importance of, you know, of both. And it’s hard to maintain.”

Rosie O'Donnell's friend Madonna appears on The Rosie O'Donnell Show on March 13, 1998. (Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

Rosie O’Donnell’s friend Madonna appears on The Rosie O’Donnell Show on March 13, 1998. (Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

O’Donnell feels for someone in that position. 

“It’s hard to do, especially when you’re doing … a show like that, but, you know, I don’t think it was the ‘be kind’ thing that, that got her,” she said. “I think that’s … an oversimplification, but it was a lot of things and it was complicated and I’m glad that she’s, you know, going to be finished and she can get some time to herself to just, I mean, it’s a huge kind of strange thing to be on a show like that and have all that attention on you. And she had it for, like, 19 years. So, you know, it’s a tough thing.”

DeGeneres has hosted her weekday show since 2003, but she announced in May that she’ll end it in 2022. She apologized and let go of three producers after the allegations against her, but she said that they hadn’t affected her decision. She’s simply ready “to take a break from talking.”

O’Donnell said in August 2020 that she sympathized with DeGeneres.

“I have compassion, even though, you know, I hear the stories and I understand,” O’Donnell said. “I think she has some social awkwardness.”

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