When I heard the announcement Tuesday night that Elisabeth Hasselbeck was leaving ABC’s The View for Fox & Friends, my mind flashed to the image of Lili Taylor at the end of the ridiculous ghost movie The Haunting, being carried into the afterlife by a fleet of child spirits.
What I mean is that, after years of being tormented by the liberal spirits in Barbara Walters‘s mansion, Hasselbeck probably feels she has died and gone to heaven.
As The View‘s sole conservative voice, Hasselbeck was the ready target of jokes and parodies in the media (most notably by Kristen Wiig on Saturday Night Live). But her problem was never really political.
Awkwardly declamatory, she is not the most naturally articulate spokeswoman for any party or for any position to right (or left) of center. And she doesn’t have a spontaneous sense of humor to ease her way and disarm adversaries.
Those factors put her and kept her at a disadvantage on a panel of zinger-proud women with strong backgrounds in comedy – and never more so than when she tried to sustain any kind of debate against the also-departing, very funny Joy Behar (who if anything is too comfortable throwing out her political opinions) or former moderator Rosie O’Donnell (with whom she warred in a clash so heated it earned a rarely seen split-screen).
Watching Hasselbeck trying to interject her particular point into the crossfire was like watching a fawn considering whether and when to dash across a highway.
As the show’s female audience turned it into a magnet for politicians in election years, Hasselbeck could only struggle: When last fall she asked President Obama about the plight of the middle class – and asked with respectfully timorous caution – she got ridiculed by Conan O’Brien in late night (who in turn was mocked by Fox’s Bill O’Reilly).
Kelly Ripa never has these dramas.
To be fair to Hasselbeck, she doesn’t get nearly enough credit as the most successful graduate of CBS’s Survivor, where she managed to make a head bandana into a statement of style and sportiness, the wilderness equivalent of Jennifer Aniston hair. That was more than a decade ago. And she isn’t going away.
If The View producers want to find a new conservative voice for the show, they should start scouring comedy clubs for female standup comedians who voted for Mitt Romney.
They will search between now and forever.