The View lost some of its star power yesterday, and as a result, fans of the popular ABC talk show will be denied the chance to see one of the more promising celebrity showdowns of the fall.
Star Jones Reynolds, who has been with the morning program since its debut in 1997, told viewers yesterday that she will be leaving the show next month. While she was purposefully vague in her on-air remarks and a follow-up statement issued through a publicist, it appears that, rather than quitting the show, she was fired by executive producer Barbara Walters.
"Something has been on my heart for a little bit," Jones Reynolds told viewers and fellow panelists Walters, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Joy Behar shortly after the show's first commercial break yesterday.
"And after much prayer and counsel, I feel like this is the right time to tell you that the show is moving in another direction for its 10th season, and I will not be returning as co-host next year."
The "other direction" refers in part to the hiring of Rosie O'Donnell to replace Meredith Vieira as one of the show's co-hosts starting in September.
Vieira, who also helped launch The View, left the show three weeks ago to join NBC's Today - where she will replace Katie Couric in September. (Couric, the lead domino in the chain, left Today in May to become managing editor and anchor of the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric starting this fall.)
O'Donnell has publicly criticized Jones Reynolds - particularly questioning the former prosecuting attorney's honesty in claiming that she lost more than 100 pounds using only "natural" methods of exercise and diet rather than undergoing a gastric bypass. Since the April announcement of O'Donnell's hiring, Jones Reynolds has been hinting that she would rather quit than sit alongside the newest panel member. High drama was expected on the set come September when O'Donnell arrives.
While Walters has publicly indicated that she would like Jones Reynolds to stay, the 44-year-old Jones Reynolds says in a People magazine interview to be published Friday that she was shown the door.
"What you don't know is that my contract was not renewed for the tenth season," Jones Reynolds is quoted as saying on the magazine's Web site. "I feel like I was fired."
Walters expressed surprise at the on-air announcement by her co-host.
Urging the audience to give Jones Reynolds a standing ovation, Walters said, "Whatever is best for you, is what I want - what we all want for you."
Calls and e-mails to Jones Reynolds and ABC were not returned.