- Comedienne; television talk-show host
- Anti-gun activist
- Strong supporter of Democratic Party
- Supports gay marriage
- Opposes Iraq war
Rosie O'Donnell was born on March 21, 1962 in Commack, New York. After being voted “Most Popular” and Homecoming Queen in high school, she briefly attended Dickinson College and Boston University before dropping out to pursue a career in show business.
O'Donnell started out doing stand-up comedy, for which she won $20,000 on the program Star Search in 1984. She also played bit parts in a number of television sitcoms. By the early '90s, she was getting co-starring roles in major films, including A League of Their Own (1992), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and Exit to Eden (1994). From 1996 to 2002, she hosted her own daytime talk show, The Rosie O'Donnell Show. And in 1997 Time magazine named the popular O'Donnell one of the 25 most influential people in the United States.
Over time, O'Donnell became increasingly outspoken vis-à-vis her political views. At a 1996 New York City event supporting the re-election campaign of President Bill Clinton, for instance, she delighted the crowd by shouting, “Dole sucks!”—a reference to Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.
Shortly after news of the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sexual scandal broke in early 1998, O'Donnell defended Mr. Clinton, calling him “captivating,” “strikingly handsome,” and “warm-hearted.” “He's a very good president and I would hate to have this tarnish his reputation or his place in history,” she said.
Following the horrific Columbine (Colorado) school shootings of April 1999, O'Donnell spoke out strongly on the need for strict new gun-control measures. When actor Tom Selleck appeared on O'Donnell's program to promote his movie The Love Letter about a month after the shootings, the hostess attacked Selleck because he had done some publicity work for the National Rifle Association (NRA). Said O'Donnell: “I think that the reason that people are so extreme against the NRA is because the NRA has such a militant strength, especially a power in Washington to veto or to stronghold against any sensible gun law.” She also characterized the Second Amendment as an 18th century relic: “I think the Second Amendment is in the Constitution so that we can have muskets when the British people come over in 1800. I don't think it's in the Constitution so we can have assault weapons in the year 2000!”
Soon thereafter, O'Donnell became involved with the anti-gun organization Million Mom March (MMM), serving as the group's emcee for its initial Mother's Day demonstration in Washington on May 14, 2000. When O'Donnell was asked by ABC's Cokie Roberts whether her affiliation with MMM had a political component, she replied: “I will always support the Democrats and I love the Democratic agenda about gun control.” When asked if she opposed concealed handgun permits, she replied, “Of course, I'm against them.” On another occasion, O'Donnell said, “I also think you should not buy a gun anywhere.” In an ideal world, she has elaborated, “you are not allowed to own a gun, and if you do own a gun I think you should go to prison.” O'Donnell's stance on gun control has been viewed by some as hypocritical, in light of the fact that she herself has employed armed bodyguards to protect her and her family.
In a May 2000 interview with National Review magazine, O'Donnell depicted the NRA as a racist conservative organization: “The only life that is important to them is white, Republican life,” she said.
Also in 2000, O'Donnell and the publishers of McCall's collaborated to revamp that publication under the name Rosie, a magazine that would focus on social and political issues. The new periodical was launched in 2001. Though O'Donnell was given control over the editorial process, she was highly displeased by the fact that the publisher retained the final say over what ultimately appeared in the magazine. As a result, O'Donnell resigned in September 2002, stating. “If I'm going to have my name and my brand on the corner of a magazine, it has to be my vision.” Rosie magazine folded soon thereafter, in 2003. Later that year, O'Donnell and the publishers sued one another for breach of contract.
Early in 2002, O'Donnell publicly announced that she was a lesbian. On February 26, 2004, she married former Nickelodeon marketing executive Kelli Carpenter in San Francisco, shortly after that city’s mayor had authorized the granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The couple adopted two boys and a girl. Their fourth child, Vivienne Rose, was conceived by means of sperm donation and was born to Carpenter in November 2002. In 2007 O'Donnell and Carpenter parted ways.
In 2002 O'Donnell hosted a campaign fundraiser on behalf of former Attorney General Janet Reno's run for the Florida Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Said O'Donnell: “When I heard she was running, I called up her office and said I would do everything and anything I can [to help her] … right up until Election Day.”
In an early 2003 appearance on MSNBC's Phil Donahue program—just a few weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq—O'Donnell criticized the allegedly war-mongering Bush administration. “This is not the American way of life,” she said. “This is not American values. When there are alternate means, when the UN, an organization that is set up to prevent World War III, is saying please follow these rules and we are saying, no, we won't. Out like a cowboy alone.” Demanding that the U.S. “stop acting like a bully and change the policy,” O'Donnell impugned America for having introduced nuclear weapons to the world: “We created the nuclear weapons and now all the other people have them, too. And we're getting mad. Right. Guess who started the game? We did. We did … And still, we're the only nation that's ever used nuclear atomic weapons on human beings. We did it twice. Hiroshima, Nagasaki. We did it.”
When President Bush in 2004 endorsed a Constitutional amendment defining marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman, O'Donnell raged: “It will be the first time, except for Prohibition, that bigotry has been added to the Constitution.” She called the amendment “shocking and immoral,” adding: “I think the actions of the President are, in my opinion, the most vile and hateful words ever spoken by a sitting President. I am stunned, and I'm horrified.”
In a taped interview with Geraldo Rivera which aired in May 2005, O'Donnell charged that because President Bush had “invaded a sovereign nation in defiance of the UN,” he “is basically a war criminal.” “Honestly,” she said. “George W. Bush should be tried at The Hague.”
In 2006 O’Donnell replaced Meredith Vieira as co-host of the ABC talk show The View, where O’Donnell’s politically charged commentary—almost uniformly critical of Republicans and conservatives—frequently generated controversy. “I have a responsibility as well as an opportunity to speak to millions of people on a daily basis,” she maintained.
On September 12, 2006, O’Donnell responded to claims that radical Islam posed a threat to the safety of Americans by saying: “Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have a separation of church and state. We’re a democracy.” She also used the occasion to condemn the U.S. military response to 9/11: “We were attacked, not by a nation. And as a result of the attack and the killing of nearly 3,000 innocent people, we invaded two countries and killed innocent people in their countries.”
In October 2006 O’Donnell equated the tactics by which South Africa’s former apartheid government had thwarted dissent and political opposition, with those of the George W. Bush administration: “The blacks in South Africa, who were trying to fight for their own civil rights, were called terrorists and the government was allowed to arrest them at will and interrogate them ... just on the suspicion. Very similar today to what we have in the United States, thanks to the Patriot Act.” O'Donnell revisited this theme in March 2007, when she said that “the Patriot Act has robbed us of us our civil liberties in this country.”
The following month, O’Donnell likened the atmosphere in post-9/11 America to that of the “McCarthy era,” charging that people were now being “blacklisted” and labeled “unpatriotic” for dissenting from Bush administration policies. She also advised Americans not to be afraid of Islamic terrorists: “Faith or fear, that's your choice. You can walk through life believing in the goodness of the world, or walk through life afraid of anyone who thinks different than you and trying to convert them to your way of thinking.... get away from the fear. Don't fear the terrorists. They're mothers and fathers.”
In January 2007, O'Donnell asserted: “Someone, I believe, should call for the impeachment of George Bush,” so “the world knows that the nation is not standing behind this President's choices, that the nation, a democracy, feels differently than the man who is leading as if it were a dictatorship, and that we represent this country, he does not lead as a monarch.”
In mid-March 2007, after it was reported that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had confessed to his role in 9/11 and many other terrorist plots, O’Donnell voiced her belief that KSM's admissions had been coerced by means of torture and thus were unreliable: “I think the man has been in custody of the American government, in secret CIA torture prisons in Guantanamo Bay, where torture is accepted and allowed, and he finally is the guy who admits to doing everything. They finally found the guy. It's not that guy bin Laden. Its this guy they've had since 93.” Asserting that the U.S. was “treating [KSM and other captives] like animals,” “rob[bing] them of their humanity,” and “tortur[ing] them on a daily basis,” O'Donnell suggested that the Bush administration was merely looking for a scapegoat: “[F]or whatever he [KSM] did or didn’t do, he is not the be all, end all, of terrorism in America. And our government has not found the answer in this one man.”
That same month, O'Donnell made headlines by speaking out about an incident where an Iranian ship entered Iraqi waters to illegally seize a group of British sailors. (Iran's government claimed that the Brits in fact were in Iranian territory.) By O'Donnell's reckoning, the Brits had intentionally entered waters that they knew to be in dispute, as part of a British-U.S. conspiracy to provoke a war with Iran: “[I]nteresting with the British sailors, there were 15 British sailors and Marines who apparently went into Iranian waters and they were seized by the Iranians. And I have one thing to say: Gulf of Tonkin, Google it. Okay.”
Also in March 2007, O’Donnell suggested that the American government was hiding the truth about its own role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, particularly the possibility that government agents may have brought down the #7 World Trade Center building—which was not struck by a plane—by means of a controlled demolition. “I do believe it is the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel,” she said sarcastically. “I do believe that it defies physics for the World Trade Center Tower Seven, Building Seven, which collapsed in on itself, it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved, World Trade Center Seven. World Trade Center One and Two got hit by planes. Seven, miraculously, for the first time in history, steel was melted by fire. It is physically impossible.” When The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked her who she thought might have been responsible for that, O'Donnell replied: “I have no idea.”
- O'Donnell revisited this theme on May 14, 2007, when she said that New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had led a post-9/11 conspiracy to hide “all of the steel” from the collapsed Twin Towers: “He was, you know, instrumental in making sure that all of the steel was removed and shipped to Canada right away, Giuliani was, shipped to China, sorry, right away.… To get it out of there and to have, you know, all of the stuff, but it was all gone. So there was no, like, metal to test.”
- In August 2014, O'Donnell reaffirmed her position in a tweet: “i still do not believe the official story.”
On April 25, 2007—soon after Time magazine had named her as one of America's 100 Most Influential People—O'Donnell announced that she would be leaving The View as a regular co-host when her contract expired two months later, on June 22. She left the show several weeks earlier than expected, however, following an on-air argument with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck on May 23.
During the April 23, 2007 airing of The View, O'Donnell proudly recalled how her adopted son Parker—when he was just five years old in 2000—had told his teacher and classmates that George W. Bush's presidential election victory was illegitimate: “Its funny … because when he was in public school in first grade and Bush won, supposedly, and he [Parker] went in to school that day and he gets home. I said, How was school? He goes, 'Fine.' He was like five years old. The teacher calls me: 'Oh, hi, Ms. O'Donnell. I just wanted to let you know that today in class Parker announced that President Bush was not the real President because he cheated.' And I said, 'Well that's known as truth in our house.'”
When the Supreme Court ruled in April 2007 that a congressional ban on the practice commonly known as “partial-birth abortion” was constitutional, O’Donnell called the decision “frightening,” adding that “it’s as if the women’s movement never happened.” “You know what concerns me?” she continued. “How many Supreme Court judges are Catholics.... Five. How about separation of church and state in America?” O'Donnell also suggested that sexism may have played a role in the Court ruling: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
On May 17, 2007, O'Donnell blamed American transgressions for the rise of terrorist activity in Iraq. Citing a hugely inflated figure for the number of Iraqis who had been killed in the war, she stated: “I just want to say something: 655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?... I'm saying if you were in Iraq, and the other country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?”
In September 2007, WorldNetDaily reported that its Jerusalem bureau chief, Aaron Klein, had recently interviewed several senior Palestinian terrorist leaders and asked them to give their views regarding various high-profile Americans, one of whom was Rosie O’Donnell. Klein informed the terrorists, who had never before heard of O’Donnell, that she was a well-known television personality, and he then proceeded to read to them a series of O’Donnell’s political statements. For example, Klein informed them about O'Donnell's claims that: (a) the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay “robs [the inmates] of their humanity” by “treating them like animals” and subjecting them to “torture … on a daily basis”; (b) Americans had no reason to “fear the terrorists,” because the latter were “mothers and fathers,” just like them; (c) Iran was the target of a U.S.-British conspiracy to create a pretext for war; (d) World Trade Center Building #7 may have been brought down by the U.S. government in order to destroy documents incriminating the oil giant Enron and other major corporations; and (e) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's confessions had been coerced by means of torture.
“I agree with everything O'Donnell said,” declared Ramadan Adassi, chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AAMB) in the West Bank's Anskar refugee camp. “We welcome Rosie O’Donnell to stay among us and to get to know the truth from being here, like many American peace activists are doing.” Another AAMB chieftain in the West Bank, Ala Senakreh, added: “Many people have been saying this [about 9/11] since the first moment it happened. Of course when it comes from persons like O'Donnell, who you say is respected, it takes a more serious significance. I guess she knows what she is saying.” Unaware that O'Donnell was an open lesbian, Senakreh publicly invited her to visit the Palestinian territories.
In May 2008—when the anti-white, anti-Semitic rants of Barack Obama's longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright, were gaining significant public attention—O'Donnell defended Wright's views, saying: “[W]hat it came to, boil[ed] down to in his mind is the fact that, you know, this man is, is following a tradition of black preachers and that there is a righteous indignation about people who were only considering three-fourths a person until fairly recently in our history. And that his anger, which annoys some and forces some to look at issues that America is not really ready to face, is the actual issue. That racism does exist in this country and it's still thriving.... There is a place in the world, an inspirational, liberational kind of preaching that Reverend Wright does that when you read something that sort of, I was not as offended as the people in the polls that I read. I listen[ed] to him, and frankly, it made sense to me. I totally understood what he was saying.... He was comparing it to when the government did give syphilis to black Americans for 40 years. What he was saying is in his history, in his genetic memory, he knows what it's like for the government to infect his own people. Because he lived through those Tuskagee experiments. And that's what he was talking about.”
In June 2010, O'Donnell came to the defense of White House press-corps reporter Helen Thomas after the latter had said: “Tell them [the Jews] to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember these people [the Palestinians] are occupied. It’s their land, not Germany’s, not Poland’s.... They [the Jews] should go home, to Poland, to Germany, to America.” Explaining that the Israelis were “occupying a country,” O'Donnell stated: “What [Thomas] was saying was the homeland was originally Palestinians’… and that it’s now occupied by Israel, and that Palestinians should be afforded, you know, human and civil rights. That’s what I think that she was saying.”
On June 9, 2012, O'Donnell married her second wife, Michelle Rounds, a 40-year-old executive-search consultant from New York City. In January 2013 the couple adopted a baby girl named Dakota. O'Donnell and Rounds separated in November 2014, and O'Donnell filed for divorce soon thereafter.
On July 22, 2014, O'Donnell retweeted a message sent by reporter Alex Kane about an act of civil disobedience carried out by Jewish New Yorkers who were outraged at Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza. She also sent out a number of her own messages about Gaza that same day. One of them linked to an interview where Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi had said of the Israeli incursion: “It’s nothing short of a massacre, a deliberate massacre. War crimes committed daily. But now there is a deliberate shelling and bombing and destruction of whole areas, of residential areas.”
In December of that year, O'Donnell tried to sell 30 pieces of “limited edition” art from a collection which she titled “Israel Begins Bombing Gaza.” The featured piece was a photograph purportedly showing a Palestinian man carrying a distraught child away from dangerous Israeli attackers in Gaza, with a caption that read: “This man carries a baby about the same age as the one I sit next to, watching [the movie] Frozen.” But in fact, that particular photo had not even been shot in Gaza; it was a Getty Images picture of an emergency-response volunteer carrying a child who had been wounded during an attack by Syrian government forces in northern Syria.
In October 2014, O'Donnell blamed the United States for the recent rise of the barbaric terrorist group ISIS, which was overrunning and laying waste to large regions of Iraq and Syria. “[D]on't you think the reason ISIS was created,” said O'Donnell, “was because when Saudi hijackers attacked us, we invaded a different country that had nothing to do with it?... That would incite people to radicalize, right?” When O'Donnell said the words “Saudi hijackers,” she formed the symbols for quotation marks with her fingers.
Also in October 2014, O'Donnell heaped praise upon former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: “He's not just a Democrat. I think he is a man of peace.” “He is my favorite president ever,” added O'Donnell, “and, I think, probably, the most pious human being I've ever met in my life.”
In November 2014—as a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri deliberated over whether or not to indict the white police officer who had shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown on August 9 (click here for details of that case)—O’Donnell lamented that Brown's death was “a gross injustice,” and that “black boys are like the endangered species in America.” While conceding that she was not privy to all the information that the grand jury was evaluating, O’Donnell said: “I as an American feel it’s very wrong to shoot unarmed teenagers six times, once in the head.” Moreover, she described Ferguson as a place with “a minority policing a majority” (whites policing blacks). And she characterized the infamous 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles as expressions of “righteous indignation.”
When the Ferguson grand jury announced that it had decided not to indict the officer who had shot Michael Brown, O'Donnell suggested that prosecutors had timed that announcement for 9 p.m. in order to incite maximum violence and thereby take the public's attention “off of what actually happened to an 18-year-old boy in the street and pu[t] it on to ‘look at those horrible [black] people rioting!’” “Why do you think [prosecutors] waited to announce it until 9:00 at night?” she asked rhetorically. “I think that was a calculated decision in order to incite people in the night time even when there was peaceful protest these last few weeks,” despite it being “recommended they have it [the reading of the verdict] in the day because the violence was so much less.”
On November 25, 2014, O'Donnell said: “The conversation about systemic racism in the United States needs to be opened up for all of us in a dialogue not just when atrocities like this happen. But all the time because it's prevalent in America and we need to look at ourselves.” “As I was sitting on the couch with my godson and my daughter watching,” O'Donnell added, “I just started to cry and my 12-year-old asked me, 'mommy, why are people racist?' And I didn't really have an answer for her. I didn't really.... There needs to be a bigger conversation.”
O'Donnell administers her own Internet blog, where she writes mainly on the social and political topics that interest her.
O'Donnell has made numerous campaign contributions to political candidates and organizations over the years. Among the beneficiaries of these donations have been Corrine Brown, Hillary Clinton, Tammy Duckworth, Lane Evans, Erin Gruwell, Mike Honda, John Kerry, Ned Lamont, Carolyn McCarthy, Charles Schumer, EMILY's List, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.