It all seems like a harmless "catfight" but in today's litigious society the verbal battle during Wednesday's "The View" on ABC involving alleged White House party crasher Michaele Salahi and co-host Whoopi Goldberg could become a major headache for the network and for Goldberg in particular.
On Thursday's show — despite a statement from the Salahis' attorney issued earlier in the morning charging defamation — Goldberg was more defiant than repentant, and clearly the show's producers by allowing her to defend and condone her actions, were acknowledging support.
Salahi — who gained notoriety by attending a White House party in November 2009 with her husband Tariq which they insist they were invited to, but about which questions still remain — appeared on Wednesday's "The View" to promote Bravo's "The Real Housewives of D.C." of which she is a cast member, and was aggressively questioned by the show's hosts, Joy Behar and Sherri Shepherd.
At one point, Goldberg, who was not part of the segment but was backstage, came on set to Salahi while she was answering another question, put her hand on her arm and told her to move on and start talking about the White House situation.
After the show, Salahi accused Goldberg of grabbing her arm and was upset by it. Goldberg said on "The View" on Thursday that she was accused of hitting Salahi and that resulted in her using some "choice words" in response.
Then Goldberg said Tariq Salahi started taking pictures of her with his Blackberry which led her to use "more choice words."
Salahi's attorney, Lisa Bloom, said those words were "fuck" and "'fucking' more than a dozen times in a loud voice."
"I make no apology for my choice words," Goldberg said Thursday.
On Thursday's show, the first five minutes were spent showing clips from the on-stage questioning of Michaele Salahi and the incident where Goldberg came from off-stage. It looked more like a touch than a "grab."
But Bloom, in her statement, said, "Mrs. Salahi's overall experience on 'The View' was degrading and demeaning." Statements made by Shepherd that Salahi should be in jail were "outrageous and defamatory," Bloom said.
In advance of Salahi's appearance on "The View," the show "was advised not to refer to Mrs. Salahi as a party crasher, as that statement is false and defamatory," Bloom said. "Nevertheless she was called a party crasher at least five times on air, by my count, including Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd and by the prerecorded male voice that announces the show."
Those types of statements by lawyers usually mean that a lawsuit is on the way. But lawsuits for public figures are hard to win, and Salahi in a reality series cast is clearly a public figure.
ABC issued the following statement regarding the situation:
"At one point during Michaele Salahi’s appearance on “The View” on Wednesday, Whoopi Goldberg lightly touched Ms. Salahi to get her attention and said to her, “Excuse me, can you get back to the White House, please,” meaning could Ms. Salahi return to the original subject of the conversation. After the show, Ms. Salahi and her husband accused Whoopi of hitting Ms. Salahi. As the broadcast clearly shows, the accusation was completely unfounded and erroneous. After the show and after being told she was being accused of hitting Ms. Salahi, Whoopi proceeded to defend herself verbally from this baseless claim in a heated exchange with the Salahis. Ms. Salahi claims she never said that Whoopi hit her."