Barbara Walters and Elisabeth Hasselbeck are keeping up appearances -- for now. After Us Weekly and other outlets reported last week that Hasselbeck's contract on ABC's The View had not been renewed, Walters took to the air to address the issue. Walking onto the set arm-in-arm with her controversial co-host, the veteran journalist opened the March 11 episode by reassuring viewers that Hasselbeck was a respected member of the show.
"The truth is, we love Elisabeth...Beyond that, we value and appreciate her point of view," Walters said Monday. "It's important to us because Elisabeth helps give this show perspective and balance...We have no plans for Elisabeth to leave the show."
That said, she added, "[Executive producer] Bill [Geddie] and I have always said that when one of you makes the choice to leave, that is your choice, and we will support your decision."
A source tells Us that the denial is part of a strategy to "save face" for both Hasselbeck and the series. Producers are "just leaving the door open for Elisabeth to announce she is leaving on her own when she is ready," the insider explains. "They don't want to make her look bad and don't want to make the show look bad for canning her...They just want to make it seem like Elisabeth decided to leave on her own when the announcement comes."
Original panelist Star Jones departed the show amid similar drama in 2006; before Jones' surprise, on-air exit, Walters had denied rampant rumors that Jones was on her way out. Jones returned to the show to bury the hatchet in February 2012, saying of her renegade departure: "I made the decision to go out on my own terms, to control it, so that if I was ever invited back, I would feel good about it." Walters then admitted to viewers that Jones' contract was simply not renewed and that the denials about her leaving were to "protect" Jones.
Us Weekly first broke the news of Hasselbeck's departure on Friday, March 8. "The viewers they polled all said she was too extreme and right wing," a source told Us of the conservative 35-year-old mother of three, who officially joined the cast in November 2003, after a guest-hosting stint following Lisa Ling's 2002 departure. "People did not watch the show because of Elisabeth. So they told her [Thursday, March 7,] her contract would not be renewed."
Hasselbeck isn't the only host who won't be returning to the couch. Joy Behar, the only remaining original cohort besides series co-creator Walters, announced last week that she would leave to pursue other interests after this season.
"You can't stay forever on a show," the 70-year-old host of Current TV's Joy Behar: Say Anything! told Good Morning America of her decision to leave The View when her contract ends in August. "I am graciously exiting stage left. I've put in 16 and a half years and felt the time was right. I want to explore other opportunities."