O'Donnell quits U.S. talk show early after spat

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Combative U.S. talk show host Rosie O’Donnell has decided to leave ABC’s “The View” early after an on-air spat with Elisabeth Hasselbeck over the Iraq war that aired repeatedly on cable TV, the network said on Friday.

(L-R) Meredith Vieira, Star Jones-Reynolds, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck at the Daytime Emmy Awards in an April 2006 photo. Barbara Walters, creator and co-executive producer of ABC's talk show "The View," denied that this week's heated on-air clash over Iraq between Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck was a ratings stunt. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich/Files

“We had hoped that Rosie would be with us until the end of her contract three weeks from now, but Rosie has informed us that she would like an early leave,” Brian Frons, president of ABC Daytime Television, said in a statement,

“Therefore, we part ways, thank her for her tremendous contribution to ‘The View’ and wish her well.”

The show’s creator and co-executive producer, Barbara Walters, said: “I brought Rosie to the show. Rosie contributed to one of our most exciting and successful years at ‘The View.’ I am most appreciative. Our close and affectionate relationship will not change.”

And O’Donnell said, “I’m extremely grateful. It’s been an amazing year and I love all three women,” a reference to her co-hosts including Hasselbeck with whom she sparred angrily with on Wednesday.

O’Donnell, known for her unabashedly liberal views, and Hasselbeck, who is a political conservative, have sparred frequently on the show, although they profess to be good friends off-camera.

Their latest exchange on Wednesday, perhaps their most heated, was a continuation of a debate over the Iraq war that began last week when O’Donnell said on the show, “655,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Who are the terrorists?”

Supporters of the U.S. war effort accused O’Donnell of equating American soldiers with terrorists, and Hasselbeck said on Wednesday that O’Donnell should clarify her statement.

In the ensuing shouting match, the two women ended up calling each other “cowardly” before a commercial break ended the confrontation.

O’Donnell surprised viewers last month when she announced on the show that she had decided to end her run as co-host of “The View” when her contract expires in mid-June after just nine months on the air.

But she said then that she planned to return to the show next season for special segments and as a recurring guest host. It was not immediately clear whether she would and representatives for ABC were not available for comment.

O’Donnell has been a ratings booster for the ABC daytime show and has caused controversy with tart-tongued comments aimed at leading public figures, including real estate developer Donald Trump.