Few people on TV generate stronger emotions and reactions than Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who at age 33 is the youngest member on ‘The View‘s panel of cohosts.
Hasselbeck will enter her eighth year as the show’s resident conservative not long after the ABC daytime talker premieres its 14th season, on September 7. And though she has problems sometimes with that “conservative” label, she admits it’s as good a description of her as any, while also insisting that some of her points-of-view don’t conform at all to the impression people have of her.
Here in Part 1 of a wide-ranging interview with Fancast, Hasselbeck clarifies her views on several hot-button issues (including gay marriage and abortion), clears up some misperceptions, and sets the record straight on her recent criticism of Kathy Griffin, as well as her infamous clash with Rosie O’Donnell.
Fancast: Are you aware how strongly some people react to you?
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: I am.
Why do you think that is?
Well, quite possibly because I am vocal about my opinions and though many may share them, they don’t [state] them on a national stage five days a week. So more people are aware of what I think and from there are able to create an opinion of me, not just an opinion of what I said. It can be an interesting walk down the street depending on where I am. [Laughs] Usually, if someone approaches me, I sort of take a breath and wait. And one of two things comes out of their mouths. One is [in a breathless voice]: ‘I absolutely love everything you stand for! I so relate! And every time you say it, I’m right there with you!’ Or [normal voice]: ‘I don’t agree with anything you say, but I really like your outfit.’
In other words, nobody comes up to you and says something on par with what they might post anonymously on a website’s comment section.
No, I find that most everyone that I come in contact with … I have three kids, so we’re at the grocery store, at Target, at the park, we’re running around, so I run into a lot of parents and moms and dads and nannies and babysitters and young kids. And most of them really don’t judge me. They understand that there is an opinion to be had by everyone and they know [that] who I am as a person is not completely defined by everything I’ve just said at that table.
How do you feel when you are a lightning rod for what sometimes are very nasty reactions that come to you by regular mail, e-mail or in the form of website commentary?
I try not to let too much of the noise in. [When she was just starting out on 'The View'] it’s easy for someone to really be sensitive to what everybody else thinks about what you’re doing. I think it’s important to make sure that of the people who give you their opinion, the ones you need to keep in mind are those that, obviously, employ you [Laughs], and your closest friends and family. You sort of check your actions with those who know you best and have your best interests at heart. So I try not to let too much of it in, and thankfully, with the three little ones running around, I don’t have much time to let it get in there.
What are some common misperceptions about you?
Oh, gosh, there are so many. They’re really funny. One is that I’m a super neat-freak conservative [and] perfect, like, a Stepford wife. [Laughs] I mean, there are times I wish for that sort of organization and natural tendency to have this perfect home. And without Tim, my husband, who is naturally neat, organized and has everything in order, I tend towards disaster. [Also] I am not ultra-ultra-conservative on every issue. I actually support gay marriage.
That may be an opinion that would surprise people.
I think the gay marriage thing would definitely surprise people. I mean, for some people, it will surprise them to the point that they won’t want to hear it. “No, that can’t be, I really want to have this sort of idea of her in my head,” so I sort of rain on their parade there. I am a person that does believe that life begins at conception, but I also don’t believe that the government should tell women what to do with their bodies. So I’m torn there in terms of supporting laws [for or against abortion]. I always say I would rather change a heart than a law. I think it has to start there. Always trying to mandate, mandate, mandate this or that is not the way that I believe this country should run.
“Conservative” is a label people plaster on this person or that one. Is it more complicated than that when we’re talking about you?
I tend to be more of a federalist than anything else, and I do think there’s more of an independent streak in me that I just get genetically from my parents. But on many issues, sure, I guess I would be classified … as conservative. But like I mentioned before, there’s so many gray issues, be it abortion or gay marriage…. There’s a lot of discussion to be had and that’s why I love ‘The View’ and I wish that there was more focus on that in-between, gray area than [just] smacking a label on somebody. That’s the easy thing to do.
Well, that’s what the public does – and some in the media do.
I think the media does it more than the public, to be perfectly honest. I think sometimes the public gets the blame for what the media’s doing. And, in fact, I think it’s the media who needs to take more responsibility for the image they’re sending to the public.
You’ve been on ‘The View’ for seven years going on eight – a long time to be on a widely watched TV show that stirs up such strong emotions. Has it changed you? Has it made you stronger?
It’s interesting because I’ve been on the show nearly as long as I’ve been married, longer than I’ve been a mom, but I would still say that motherhood has changed me the most. [The Hasselbecks have a daughter, 5, and two sons, 1 and 3]. But to be able to go through parenting troubles – trials even, in terms of trying to conceive – while being in that chair is sort of a double-edged sword. Anything personal that you’re dealing with, like with most jobs, you can’t walk in and always spill your guts, but I have the ability to. But there are times when I’ve protected my own heart when I’m struggling with something, and I’ve learned [that] this is a great opportunity to connect with other parents out there who are maybe going through the same thing, or even spouses or couples who are dealing with nagging issues in their relationship.
The heated, emotional on-air argument you had with Rosie O’Donnell in May 2007 may have been the most dramatic of all the moments we might group together as “The Tales of Elisabeth.” Was that your worst experience, or the worst period of time for you, at ‘The View?’
I won’t talk too much about that subject only because I believe that it feeds what people tend to go back to, and it wasn’t the most incredible moment, it wasn’t the most dramatic moment, it wasn’t the most, you know, life-changing moment for anybody involved. And that moment, even in of itself, didn’t define the entire season with Rosie. Actually, I truly enjoyed that [season] and I think … there was a friendship there. But I’ll leave it at that. That moment wasn’t as horrific as everyone likes to make it out to be.
What about Kathy Griffin? Would you like to take this opportunity to clarify what you said about her when you criticized her this summer for suggesting that the daughters of Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown were prostitutes? You used the word “scum” in talking about Kathy. Is that what you meant to say?
I believe I asked Joy [Behar], “If somebody called your daughter a prostitute, what would you think of them? I’d call them scum.” So I was actually saying, if anybody called your daughter that, I’d say they’re scum. It’s laughable to me that I’m the bad guy for calling someone out for calling someone’s daughter a prostitute when they’re not. Maybe there are a few people on earth who haven’t hurt someone. We’ve all been there, we’ve all hurt someone’s feelings, we’ve all done something wrong. There’s a difference between doing it unintentionally and doing it intentionally time and time again. That’s all I’ll say.
Have you heard from Kathy Griffin?
Coming soon to Fancast.com: Part 2 of our conversation with Hasselbeck, where Elisabeth opens up about life backstage at ‘The View,’ her co-hosts, her future and the day President Obama came to visit.