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Saturday, July 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Series of lies cloud "The View"

Los Angeles Times

Things got messy this week with the girlfriends on "The View."

What was supposed to be a carefully choreographed series of lies, told to save face, spare feelings and protect careers, devolved into a nasty catfight, leaving a veteran newswoman, Barbara Walters, in the position not only of having admitted lying but of accusing her now-former co-host, Star Jones Reynolds, of lacking dignity for failing to lie about why she was leaving the show.

Reynolds had already been slammed for (allegedly) lying about how she lost more than 100 pounds. And of course, the woman who accused her of that, "The View's" new co-host, Rosie O'Donnell, lied for years about having a crush on Tom Cruise before she came out of the closet.

Everybody in TV lies, of course. To save face, to save feelings, to save careers.

But rarely do the lies come apart so publicly and — quite frankly — so deliciously.

And rarely is a journalist such as Walters, whose main asset is her credibility, forced to admit to tangoing with the truth. "I have always told the truth on this program," Walters told the New York Daily News on Tuesday, "except in the case of Star."

Her big lie: Last May, when O'Donnell was hired to replace Meredith Vieira, Walters tried to dampen speculation that Reynolds' contract would not be renewed for a 10th season. "If Star wants to continue to be there," Walters told The New York Times, "she is welcome."

As it turns out, not so much.

Walters, of course, had known for months that ABC would not renew Reynolds' contract.

Reynolds was supposed to let Walters lie for her, but her feelings of betrayal must have gotten the best of her. So she did two things: Instead of waiting until Thursday, the day she was supposed to announce that she was leaving, she jumped the gun on Tuesday and announced during the show to her surprised co-hosts Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Walters that she was not coming back in the fall.

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And then Reynolds compounded the insult by telling People magazine, "I feel like I've been fired." Which, of course, is true, but that is not what the script had called for.

On Wednesday's "The View," a solemn Walters spun the debacle for viewers, and unwittingly outlined the ritualized deceptions now regularly used when any high-profile employee is fired: "If you were watching the program yesterday, you would have heard Star announce that she's leaving ... We didn't expect her to make this statement yesterday. She gave us no warning, and we were taken by surprise. But the truth is that Star has known for months that ABC did not want to renew her contract ... But we were never going to say this. We wanted to protect Star. And so we told her that she could say whatever she wanted about why she was leaving and that we would back her up. We worked closely with her representatives, and we gave her time to look for another job, and we hoped then she would announce it here on the program and leave with dignity. But Star made another choice."

On Thursday, Reynolds appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" saying she was told she could "make up a story" about why she was leaving and her colleagues would have gone along with it.

Reynolds had become a parody of self-promotion. Her "View" girlfriends had to remind her to stop talking about herself, as Vieira did recently when Reynolds called the show from her sick bed after complications from a breast lift. "OK, Star, that's enough about you! On to us! Bye!"

Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies in the USC School of Cinema and Television, said Reynolds was done in by her incessant self-regard. "I think Star began to confuse her visibility with likability."

There was the tacky way she flogged her wedding suppliers, who gave her freebies in exchange for on-air plugs until ABC asked her to cease and desist. When she wasn't promoting herself, she was on a book tour telling women how to reach their goals, but playing coy about how she reached hers.

This infuriated O'Donnell. (Never lie to a reformed liar, if you know what's good for you.) O'Donnell went after Reynolds, on her Web site in free verse: "Star Jones had weight loss surgery / She had part of her stomach bypassed / that is how she lost 1/2 herself / she refuses to say this / which is her right/ but we do not have to pretend we do not know."

Nor do we have to pretend we don't know that O'Donnell never really loved Cruise, that Reynolds was fired and, perhaps saddest of all, that Walters is a liar.

Includes information from

The Associated Press

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