Just as the Miley Cyrus controversy was waning, Rosie O'Donnell weighed in Monday, saying that if anything is to blame for the uproar over the eyebrow-raising photos of the 15-year-old tween idol in Vanity Fair, it is an American culture that uses sex to sell.
“I don’t blame Miley Cyrus,” O’Donnell said Monday on TODAY. “I think the double standard is very hypocritical. We are a country that sells sex to kids on a daily basis. Don’t blame the little girl. If you saw her on the beach, she’d be more nude than she was in that photo.”
O’Donnell was referring to the now famous “bedsheet” photo, in which Cyrus bares her back while holding a sheet across her chest. The photos by famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz sparked a firestorm of criticism, with many seeing the poses as inappropriate for a female minor.
But O’Donnell, who has also been photographed by Leibovitz, said there's no arguing with the famed photographer. “She is a genius on the level of Mozart in photography,” O’Donnell said. “She’s very intimidating.”
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As might be expected of the woman who has more irons in the fire than a blacksmith, O’Donnell touched on many subjects while spending nearly an hour with TODAY Show fourth-hour hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. For starters, she's got a new book out, "Crafty U," about crafts parents can do with their kids. She’s also starring in a special five-day Broadway revival of “No, No, Nanette,” in which, she warned, “I’m tapping.”
She’s been a film star, Broadway actress, comedian, talk-show host, gay-rights activist, children’s advocate and author. Throughout it all, the outspoken and larger-than-life O’Donnell has attracted controversy like a magnet attracts iron filings.
“She’s a great talent with emotional issues,” O’Donnell’s former co-panelist on “The View,” Barbara Walters, wrote in her recently released autobiography.
“Some people confuse passion with rage,” said O’Donnell. “I have a lot of passion about things I believe in.”
That passion led to headlines galore when she was on “The View,” many generated by her name-calling running feud with Donald Trump. Walters wrote that O’Donnell was a diva on the show, eventually taking it over before she was finally voted off the island.
O’Donnell said she was just being honest. “When somebody would say something that I found insane, I would say, ‘That’s insane.’ ”
Rosie on Barbara
She said she is still friends with Barbara Walters and goes to Broadway shows with her. “The woman never slows down,” O’Donnell said of the pioneering newswoman. “That woman defies her age.”
Kotb and Gifford asked what her reaction was when she read that the famously reserved and proper Walters admitted to having an affair 30 years ago with then-married U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke.
“I thought it was …” O’Donnell began and then broke out in a loud yodel of surprise. “I wish she had told me that,” she added.
O’Donnell did not argue with Walters’ assessment of her. She talked about being torn apart after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Having devoted a lot of time and effort to helping children, she said the shootings left her with a feeling of powerlessness and depression.
“I couldn’t deal with it,” she admitted. “There was nothing you could do to stop children from being shot in a school. I was a mess. That’s when I went and saw a doctor and actually got on medication for the first time.”
O’Donnell also volunteered her opinion on the comments of Sen. Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that so outraged many Americans. She defended his comments that many deemed to be racist. “His anger that annoys some and angers some is the actual issue that racism still exists in this country,” she said. “There is a place in the world for the kind of inspirational, liberational preaching that he does. It made sense to me. I totally understood what he was saying.”
She cited Pat Robertson, the fundamentalist Christian, who said that Hurricane Katrina was god’s punishment sent to New Orleans because of its tolerance of gays and lesbians.
“There are things that white preachers have said that’s just as insane,” O’Donnell said.