All Rights reserved
When Joy Behar first started on The View (as the host who filled in for Barbara Walters when she wasn't on the show), her job was mostly to provide the show with a bit of humor. As a stand-up comic with her own New York-based radio show, Behar was the "entertainer" of the group, which then consisted of Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Debbie Matenopoulos, and Walters.
But as cohosts and guests have come and gone, Behar has quickly ascended the ladder as The View's liberal voice of reason, going toe-to-toe with guests including Ann Coulter, John McCain, Bill O'Reilly, and even now-cohost Elisabeth Hasselbeck on a host of topics, from the war to abortion to gay rights.
It was only a matter of time before Behar got a soapbox all her own.
In the month it has been on the air, HLN's The Joy Behar Show has devoted more airtime to gay rights issues than many news/talk shows have in entire seasons. From getting Barney Frank to back down on his claims that the National Equality March was a waste of time to taking Obama to task for stalling a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," she's front and center in the gay rights movement.
Advocate.com sat down with Behar to talk about taking on Ann Coulter, the Republican Party's retro thinking on gay rights, and why she isn't the only one who thought Janet Napolitano was out of the closet.
Advocate.com: Rachel Maddow aside, I think you might just have the gayest news/talk show on television right now.
Joy Behar: Why do you say that?
You're covering the gamut and giving us so much good, gay stuff. It's a total compliment.
[Laughs] Oh, I know that... I know it's a compliment. Thank you.
You've long been known for speaking your mind on The View. What's different about the way in which you speak your mind on your show?
Well, it's a little bit more in-depth, I think. I have more time to focus on the things that I'm interested in. It's not a committee over here, it's me, so there's a big difference, I think, in terms of the way the show is run and the way I am on the show.
Right out of the gate, you've started talking about "don't ask, don't tell," about the National Equality March, about Obama's promises to the gay community. Is it just coincidence that these are all hot-button issues right now, or did you know going in you'd be talking a lot about gay rights?
Well, I focus on things that I'm interested in. I'm sure there are other shows where they don't mention gay rights. So it's a 'Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?' situation. And, in this case, the egg came first. [Laughs]
Are you surprised that there hasn't yet been any movement on "don't ask, don't tell"?
I find it shocking. Israel has gays in the military. Other countries have it. We're way behind on that whole topic. That's this country -- this country is very conservative in so many ways and it's a very slow process to get them outside of their conservative cocoons. This idea that it's going to be uncomfortable for the men -- why would it be uncomfortable unless they're gay themselves and won't admit it? I don't see why it would be uncomfortable. They're out there fighting a war but they can't [handle] some guy who's coming on to them? Gimme a break [laughs]. It's insulting to the military, I think.
You had Barney Frank on and gave him a chance to somewhat redeem himself after angering a lot of gay activists with his comments about the march. What was your take on his feelings about the march?
I think he was thinking a lot of it was old-school. "What's the point in doing this? You should be more focused on lobbying." My point is, you can do both. That was where I got him to, I think, for him to say, "Well, yeah, that's true, we can do both." A lot of times, marching on Washington is a personal catharsis for people. I did it many times in my heyday. It's nothing new. It's a great way to feel as though you're part of the system.
Early on, just as your show was premiering, you wrote a piece for The Huffington Post directed at the Ukrainian government in favor of Elton John adopting.
Yeah, that was a good one. I liked that rant.
Why was that such a passionate issue for you?
Oh, I just think that it's so retro -- and it happens in this country too. Arkansas and Florida, you can't adopt children if you're gay? It's so antediluvian, I can't even begin to tell you. You have all these children who need a home, and you're saying no to people because you don't like their sexual orientation? Please. It's infuriating, because there are so many kids out there. And truthfully, I know more gay people who are having kids than straight ones, whether they're adopting kids or having in vitro or whatever. One of my good friends, Judy Gold, she has two kids -- she gave birth to one, her girlfriend gave birth to the other.
Do you think by having your own forum now in which you can talk politics and current events, you're setting yourself up for further attacks from the right wing?
Absolutely [laughs]. Bring it on. I don't care. Once you give your opinion on television, which I've been doing for 12 years on The View, you have people who hate you. I mentioned somebody's name the other day on The View who is dead now from my childhood, and somebody called my aunt to complain. It's just on and on. No matter what you do, you're going to have people who get ticked off at you.
You've gone head-to-head with Ann Coulter.
She's coming on again this week.
You actually like Ann Coulter, don't you?
Well... I don't mind her. I think that she's amusing. I mean, I'm used to Elisabeth Hasselbeck, so it's not that different for me. Both of us realize that there's a certain amount of comedy in politics, so I think we have that in common. So that's the good news about Ann Coulter and me. But I don't feel an antagonism toward her.
Previously you've told me you do feel antagonism toward Bill O'Reilly.
Yeah, I don't care for him. First of all, I've met him several times, and he's cold -- his personality. He's entitled to his own opinion. A lot of times he's surprisingly left of center. So it's not his politics, it's really his vibe. People have [more] open politics than mine, and it's open season. I mean, I'm having Gore Vidal coming on this week. Who's more left-wing than Gore Vidal? I don't happen to agree with everything he says, but I want to talk with him too.
You've also said you'd love to have Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh on the show. What is it you hope would come from those conversations?
Well, I don't know, but I have a way of dealing with people who are out there like that. I think they shouldn't be afraid to sit and talk with me, and I want to get to the truth of the matter, whatever that happens to be. That's all I'm interested in. It would be nice if Sarah Palin would face up to some of the ridiculous things she's said over the course of the past couple of years -- same with Limbaugh. Limbaugh is talking about not being a racist -- I have a whole card filled with remarks that he's made, and they don't sound like he's not racist to me.
Do you think the fear that Sarah Palin could become president is a legitimate fear?
Listen, I have lived through Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, so the answer is yes.
There's a certain level of entertainment coverage that you do, but have you always been interested in politics, or is that something that came out of your time on The View?
No, I've always been interested -- I was married in the '60s to a college sociology professor and we would have big fights with other people from the university who would come to our house all the time. There were these political discussions going on in my early years of marriage. We were very much against the Vietnam War and I was always a news junkie. So it's not something new to me. But one thing I try to do is merge the newsiness with entertainment. I just feel that it should be entertaining when you're watching television. It's not some course you're taking at Columbia.
When did gay
rights become such an important issue to you? You may not think so, and
I get that you don't think you're doing anything that different from
other hosts, but you talk about gay rights more than most people on TV.
You do -- and it's evident the community appreciates and recognizes that.
Well, thank you, that's nice to hear. I've always been somebody who is interested in rights. I just don't feel that people should be denied their rights, in any shape or form. We live in a very good country, but it needs to be watched and nurtured constantly. As Benjamin Franklin said, "You have a republic if you can keep it." That's why this whole thing with Obama speaking about Fox News, I think, is a good idea, because he's calling it. People say, "Oh, you shouldn't sink to their level." I don't agree with that. If you see something, say something. That's my motto. [Laughs] I think I'll use that today.
It could just be that Elisabeth has been on maternity leave, but watching The View, it seems to me some of Sherri Shepherd's right-leaning ideas have mellowed? Do you think she's evolving when it comes to gay rights and other issues she's long been on the fence about?
Oh, I don't think Sherri Shepherd is antigay at all. She's in the business -- you can't be antigay and be in the business, that would be suicidal. She is a Jehovah's Witness and she was brainwashed as a young kid -- that's how I see religion, anyway... it's all brainwashing. It's hard to break those habits. But she means well, I think.
I think it's very interesting on The View that the two "young'uns," so to speak, are the more religious, more conservative types, and here you and Whoopi and even Barbara are not that way.
I know. It's always shocking to hear that somebody believes in the Bible literally -- that Noah actually had all those animals on this boat. Who did the pooper-scooping, I'd like to know? But it's always shocking to hear people literally believe that. It never ceases to amaze me. But the brainwashing is intense.
You got a lot of press last week for asking, "Isn't Janet Napolitano gay?" Were you really shocked to find out she's not, or at least that she's not out?
[Laughs] She's not out. I just assumed she was. I mean, I don't want to stereotype her... I thought Janet Reno was too. I don't know, maybe it was the Homeland Security job. I don't know. I was actually surprised it made the blogs. I thought, Of course she's gay. But I must have just been talking out of both sides of my brassiere that day.