Celebrity and television personality Rosie O’Donnell is no stranger to controversy. Some of her opinions are so outrageous that it is difficult to discern whether they’re a manifestation of a profound and cultivated ignorance, or a calculated and misleading attempt to keep her visage before the public. The shame, however, is somewhat less O’Donnell’s than her admirers, who are willing to believe the drivel she broadcasts.
O’Donnell is a 9/11 truther. In 2007, O’Donnell posted on her blog an analysis of the World Trade Center collapse that came right out of the conspiracy web site, WhatReallyHappened.com. As Rosie tells it, the collapse of the World Trade Center was an inside job. It couldn’t have collapsed from the burning jet fuel, but was demolished to get rid of corporate and law enforcement records.
But Rosie is no ordinary truther. With Rosie’s command of a large fan base and even larger television audience, Popular Mechanics found it necessary to confront head on Rosie’s knowledge of the laws of physics.
She has compared fundamentalist Christians with fundamentalist Muslims, despite the fact that we are still awaiting a group of Christians to hijack airplanes while screaming Jesus Saves! or for the Reverend Franklin Graham to issue a fatwa on behalf of Christian suicide bombers. In Rosie’s world, being against abortion appears to be the moral equivalent of stoning women to death for adultery or hanging gay people from a crane.
Until recently, her most controversial outburst was her implied comparison of American soldiers to terrorists. When recounting the civilian death toll in Iraq, she asked, who are the terrorists? Whether Rosie insinuated that American soldiers were terrorists, which she subsequently denied, is a matter of controversy. To many, that is precisely what she was doing.
Then came Helen Thomas’s 2010 rant that Jews should get out of Palestine and return to Germany and Poland. Among the precious few that rose to Thomas’ defense was Rosie, pointing out that there was nothing wrong with what Thomas said because she wasn’t exactly telling Jews to go back to the ovens.
If there was any ambiguity about Rosie’s anti-Semitism, her most recent sale of personal art titled, “Israel Begins Bombing Gaza,” seemed to vitiate any doubts. As Paul Miller, of the Franklin Center for Government and Political Integrity, notes, just in time for Christmas or Chanukah, you too can buy one of thirty acrylics designed to depict Israel as recklessly bombing innocent Arabs.
In Rosie’s world, Hamas’ launch of thousands of missiles and rockets against Israel’s civilians, its attempts to dig tunnels to kidnap Israel’s children, and its incitement of kidnapping and murder are not fit subjects for her artistic talents. Indeed, one of the pictures is not even of Gaza; it’s a picture of an emergency responder carrying an injured child, a victim of Bashir Assad’s war against his own people in Aleppo, Syria.
But Arab on Arab violence is not nearly as compelling a theme as Jews bombing innocent children. “Israel and Gaza: The death of innocent children never fails to kill a part of my soul,” is Rosie’s tag line. The death of Jewish children, however, doesn’t seem to enter her consciousness.
This attitude is as strange as it is ironic. As a strong and prominent advocate for gay rights, O’Donnell has taken a stand against the one country in the entire Middle East where gays are free to be themselves and live a lifestyle free from the death penalty for simply being gay.
O’Donnell has since removed the offending art from her website. In a tweet to Paul Miller, O’Donnell said, “I stand in my truth.”
She might be standing in something, but it doesn’t remotely smell like truth.
Abraham H. Miller is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.