Jennifer Shepard-Brookman, who has worked as a producer on the show for eight years, was initially suspended weeks ago then fired last week, according to The New York Post’s “Page Six” gossip column.
Shepard-Brookman was reportedly “profoundly and publicly disrespectful” to O’Donnell during a staff meeting in February. After an internal review, her suspension led to her termination over the incident.
The odd twist in the story is that Rosie appeared to invite the criticism. When O’Donnell supposedly heard Shepard-Brookman talking about her in a low voice during the meeting, she confronted her.
“If you have something to say, say it to my face!” Rosie reportedly bellowed.
So Shepard-Brookman did. One thing led to another and before long the two were engaged in a shouting match, according to the report.
Although the news report was lacking in details as to what was said, O’Donnell and other staff members complained about the producer to ABC’s human relations department.
What’s chilling about the whole incident is the response from an inside source.
“You have to be mindful of your role and the pecking order. Producers cannot be publicly disrespectful to the talent, no matter how much you disagree, the source told the paper. You have to know your place.”
If that’s the mindset when it comes to television talent, no wonder situations arise with on-air stars like NBC news anchor Brian Williams.
Williams lied about his Iraq war experience for more than a decade and no one on his production team ever said anything about it to him or the network.
Instead, he was finally called out and publicly humiliated by the service men who were involved in the incident. Williams claimed he was in a helicopter that was fired on when he was nowhere near combat.
It’s hard to pass judgement without knowing what was said and how it was said, but if producers can’t talk about on-air talent frankly, without fear of being fired, especially on a news-talk show, then we’re all at the mercy of overweening egos.
Last December, O’Donnell touched off a tabloid frenzy after rumors surfaced that she had clashed repeatedly with show host Whoopi Goldberg. Although the reports were denied, Rosie was criticized for attempting to throw her weight around on the show.
Ironically, the blowup involving Shepard-Brookman took place on the eve of O’Donnell’s announcement that she was leaving the show for a second time. Her last show was Feb. 12.
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