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Meredith Vieira gets ready to exit ‘The View’

‘You have to take some chances’ she says about leaving for ‘Today’ job
/ Source: The Associated Press

When Meredith Vieira felt a moment of apprehension recently about her move to “Today,” her 17-year-old son reminded her about how she had always preached about being open to the possibilities change can bring.

Ben has an ulterior motive — he wants to work at an Olympics for NBC — but Vieira took the reminder to heart.

“It might end up being a mistake, but you can’t run and hide,” she told The Associated Press. “You have to take some chances.”

First things first: Vieira is being feted this week by her colleagues on “The View,” where her last day is Friday. After nine years as the gabfest’s traffic cop, she’ll be replaced by Rosie O’Donnell in September. That same month, Vieira takes the chair beside Matt Lauer on “Today.”

She’s struggling to hold it together emotionally. Tuesday’s show, presented with pictorial evidence of how her three children have grown during her time on the show, was tough.

A journalist when she accepted Barbara Walters’ offer to join the newly created daytime show a decade ago, Vieira said she was terrified at the idea of unleashing her personality and opinions. It turned out to be fun and confidence-building, she said.

“We took this from nowhere to somewhere and that’s a great ride to have been part of,” she said.

As the show’s moderator, her role was to keep the discussion moving.

“That isn’t an easy thing to do with these strong-minded women,” she said. “Some days I was successful and many days I wasn’t. If I was looking at this like a situation comedy, I would say I was the Seinfeld of ‘Seinfeld,’ with all the nuts around me. They found out I was pretty crazy, too.”

Can Rosie and Star play nice?O’Donnell is a strong personality and a great choice for the show, Vieira said. She takes a wide berth around questions about whether O’Donnell can coexist with Star Jones Reynolds after the comedian has made pointed remarks about Reynolds’ weight loss.

If there were any disagreements or hard feelings, the women on “The View” have always talked it out offstage “because it’s bad if stuff bleeds onto the air,” she said.

Vieira is still trying to work out a schedule where she can continue as host of the syndicated game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” she said.

Her experience there, filling the chair in which Regis Philbin became a folk hero, is something she mentions when friends fearfully bring up the idea of replacing Katie Couric.

“I can’t live my life that way,” she said. “I wouldn’t have taken the ‘Millionaire’ show. Who wanted to be the one who followed Regis? I’ll do the best I can do [as Couric’s successor]. I’m going on this ride and I hope I don’t vomit.”

Even in her final days on “The View,” her new job is on her mind. During a spirited debate on Monday’s show about the prospect of outlawing gay marriage, Vieira said she intentionally stayed on the sidelines instead of the soapbox. While she introduced the segment, Vieira held back as Joy Behar and Reynolds argued with Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

There will always be critics who complain people on TV are too liberal or conservative, she said.

“It really doesn’t matter where I stand,” she said. “What’s important is that I ask the questions that relate to the topic. If they’re tough, then brand me whatever you want. That’s my job — to ask questions.

“Certainly I’m not going on there to alienate people,” she said. “I’m more concerned with going too far the other way, in my effort to show ‘yes, I’m still a journalist,’ that I wind up being an ass. I don’t want to do that, either.”