By DAVID BAUDER, Associated Press
O'Donnell said on the show Wednesday that she wanted to stay for one more year, and ABC wanted three. So she decided to leave, although she said she will appear occasionally next season for things like a planned one-hour special on autism.
"It just didn't work," she said, "and that's show biz. But it's not sad because I loved it here and I love you guys and I'm not going away."
O'Donnell has helped raise the ratings for the daytime chat show invented by Barbara Walters. But her outspokenness has caused continual controversy, including a nasty name-calling feud with Donald Trump that placed Walters squarely in the middle.
"We have had, to say the least, an interesting year," Walters said.
Walters said she had nothing to do with the decision, reached after talks between representatives for ABC Daytime and O'Donnell.
"This is not my doing or my choice," she said.
Walters was frequently left to clean up the damage after O'Donnell. She did it most recently Monday, when O'Donnell was criticized for using bad language and attacking Rupert Murdoch from the dais of the annual New York Women in Communication awards luncheon.
"I would like to point out that Rosie's view is not always mine," Walters said. "I would like to say for the record that I am very fond of Rupert Murdoch."
In the Trump imbroglio, O'Donnell was reportedly mad that Walters did not come more swiftly to her defense, while Trump said Walters told him she didn't want O'Donnell on the show - a claim Walters denied.
Trump quickly went on Fox News Channel Wednesday to claim that O'Donnell was fired by ABC because of remarks made at the Women in Communications luncheon.
"Barbara's the happiest person in the world that Rosie's been fired," Trump said.
Cindi Berger, spokeswoman for both O'Donnell and Walters, denied Trump's claim, wondering how he would know what had happened in contract talks between O'Donnell and ABC.
"She wasn't going to commit to anything for three years and they would not commit to her for one more," Berger said. Locking in O'Donnell to a three-year deal could protect ABC from year-to-year increases if the ratings continue to be good for the show.
Despite controversy - or maybe because of it - O'Donnell was good business for ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co. Ratings for "The View" during February sweeps were up 15 percent in key women demographics over the same time in 2006.
Bill Carroll, an expert in the syndication market for Katz Television, said he'd be surprised if ABC didn't try hard to keep O'Donnell, given the attention she brought to the long-running show.
The timing of the announcement doesn't particularly suit O'Donnell if she wants to remain in daytime television. She wouldn't be able to introduce a new program to the syndication market until September 2008, he said. But the company that produced O'Donnell's long-running daytime show has expressed interest in having her back, he said.
O'Donnell has discussed acting on the FX show, "Nip/Tuck." But she has not decided what she wants to do in TV in the future, Berger said.
O'Donnell made headlines repeatedly for comments on "The View," and for testy exchanges with her more conservative partner, Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
She criticized "American Idol" in January for airing humiliating auditions. "Isn't that what America thinks of entertainment? To make fun of someone's physical appearance. And when they leave the room, laugh hysterically at them. Three millionaires, one probably intoxicated."
She accused fellow ABC daytime host Kelly Ripa of making a homophobic remark, said "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America" and has been critical of President Bush.
Statements by public figures are being watched more closely in the post-Don Imus era. The lobbying group Focus on the Family said it was preparing to contact advertisers on "The View" as part of a campaign against O'Donnell. The group is angry at O'Donnell for comments they feel were insulting to Catholics.