A EXCLUSIVE by Ramin Setoodeh, New York
At the time, the network wasn’t ready to announce the co-host’s departure. According to a source familiar with ABC execs’ thinking, fear of “an Ann Curry situation”–a reference to NBC’s botched firing of the “Today” anchor in 2012–led executives to reverse course and keep Perez on the network’s 11 a.m. talk show for now.
Perez had only been on “The View” for four months when ABC execs concluded that she wasn’t the right fit for the talk show. The network thought it had an easy plan to offer Perez a graceful exit: the actress was already scheduled to take a month off from “The View” in January to prepare for her role in Larry David’s Broadway play, “Fish in the Dark.” Instead of having her return to the Hot Topics table once she was done with rehearsals, the show would announce she had to leave permanently for her other commitment.
Under one scenario hatched by execs, to avoid the appearance of pushing out their first Latina co-host in 18 seasons, ABC would throw a farewell for Perez, and invite her on to explain why she was departing.
But the Variety story that broke the news of Perez’s ouster created pandemonium backstage at the “The View.” One problem was that ABC execs hadn’t told the other co-hosts of the plan. Rosie O’Donnell, who joined the 18th season of “The View” in September along with Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace and returning moderator Whoopi Goldberg, was particularly caught off guard, sources say. O’Donnell is close friends with Perez.
After O’Donnell and others pressed ABC bosses for an explanation, the network backpedaled on the plan. Among concerns, ABC worried about outrage from viewers about dropping a Latina co-host so quickly. And they had not vetted other candidates who could replace Perez.
The premature news leak in Variety, which was corroborated by reports from other media outlets, led to concerns that Perez’s departure would reflect badly on the show and ABC management in the same way that the tearful departure of Curry from “Today” tarnished the NBC morning show’s sunny image. ABC executives weren’t high on Perez’s performance on “The View” because she didn’t necessarily steer the Hot Topics segments in the direction that made the talk show must-see TV, but last week, ABC announced that Perez would return on Feb. 3. According to sources, Perez could remain on “The View” through the end of her one-year contract at the end of the summer, or possibly leave earlier if the situation changes again.
Senior ABC executives strongly deny that there was ever a plan to oust Perez.
“These unnamed sources are wrong,” said an ABC spokesperson. “As was always the plan, the amazingly talented Rosie Perez took time off to rehearse for her Broadway play. We’re eagerly looking forward to having her back on February 3rd. Any speculation to the contrary is simply untrue.”
READ THE REST OF THIS EXCLUSIVE HERE AT THE VARIETY WEBSITE.