Rosie O'Donnell at the 2015 Athena Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo
Rosie O'Donnell at the 2015 Athena Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo
Rosie O’Donnell at the 2015 Athena Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo

In a press release from ABC on Friday, it was announced that Rosie O’Donnell would be leaving “The View.” On Saturday, O’Donnell was the center of a media frenzy on the red carpet at the premiere of her documentary, “Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Standup,” at the Athena Film Festival, and she explained the reasons for her exit.

(Later that evening, she also presented HBO Documentary President Sheila Nevins with an award.)

O’Donnell’s exit from “The View” and her publicist’s confirmation that Rosie split from her wife of two years, Michelle Rounds, went out at nearly the same time.

Everyone on the press line tossed out questions, and O’Donnell said she would answer them all. She said the reason she was leaving “The View” was because of health concerns. Between the show and her domestic situations, her stress levels have gone up.

On the red carpet, she was asked how she dealt with stress and replied that she meditates as a coping strategy.

“I started doing transcendental meditation about six years ago and that really helped. I do it about 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night.” She also listens to relaxation tapes on YouTube to “keep your spiritual muscles tuned.”

Despite that, the doctor, who closely monitors her, especially since her heart attack in 2012, noticed there was an uptick on some of her numbers since she started the show some five months ago.

O’Donnell told press, “It got a little bit worse right before the holidays and she was kind of concerned, so when I came back after the holiday break she said to me, ‘You know, the stress level is too much.’ And I’ve got a lot going on in my personal life that’s kind of stressful. And you know with five kids, four of them teenagers, it’s a lot of attention you need to give.”

She added, “I am going through some hard stuff, so I can’t really fix those things right away, but I can fix this.” She said that ABC is “unbelievably supportive and loving, and I’m still going to do the ‘The Fosters’ on ABC Family.”

Rosie O'Donnell at the 2015 Athena Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo
Sheila Nevins and Rosie O’Donnell at the 2015 Athena Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo

When asked how the rest of “The View” cast reacted to her departure, she said they found out on Friday from the press release like everyone else. The show doesn’t shoot on Fridays, O’Donnell added. “But, you know, everybody cares about me and nobody wants to do anything that’s going to affect someone’s health, right? So they get it and they know. you know? It’s ok. Not everything works out as you plan, but you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You don’t’ know if you’re gonna be here. You don’t know anything.”

The comic made a point of saying she knew she was privileged to be in a situation where she had a choice. “It’s easy for me because I’m very rich, right? So I have a lot of help. So it’s easy for people like me to talk about it. I have somebody to watch the baby if I don’t feel like it, so I have a much easier life than 99.9 percent of women on the planet, and I know that. But every woman needs to take her health seriously. I ignored it, my own. I didn’t really participate in anything besides mammograms because my mother died of breast cancer. I was so sure it would be breast cancer that got me, so when I had a heart attack, I was stunned. “

Sheila Nevins and Rosie O'Donnell at the 2015 Athena Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo
Sheila Nevins and Rosie O’Donnell at the 2015 Athena Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo

O’Donnell added that her two brothers, who she is close to, have given her lots of emotional support. She talked to her 19-year-old son Parker, who she adopted in 1995, and told him, “Here’s the deal, this is what’s happening to my numbers and this is what’s increased the risk of a heart attack by this much and what do you think I should do?’”

She added, “It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that this was the baby I diapered sitting there giving me advice, you know, and Parker, you know, loves coming to the show. He loves Whoopi. For a long time his Avatar picture on Tweeter was him and Whoopi, so he’s like, ‘Don’t quit it, man!’ But soon he came around.”

As for the announcement about her split from her wife, which was also announced last week, O’Donnell said, “You have to say something. It’s like in this day and age, as Brian Williams knows, you can’t claim something is true if something’s not true. People aren’t idiots, so I don’t want to lie and fabricate.”

She got in some more digs at Brian Williams during the awards presentation later that evening.

During her funny speech, she said how terrific it was to see so many smart, savvy women. She said she especially admired a woman who wore tan boots and was sitting at the next table.

“I saw you walking by and I’m like, ‘I don’t know who she is, but she might be my next wife.’”

Everyone in the audience roared as the joke turned into a crack about the embattled anchorman. “I don’t know. I just had a feeling. I’m not saying you have to feel that way back. But I did see you walking and I thought we had a moment. Was it only me?”

Then she conceded that maybe she got her signals wrong. “Maybe that’s the problem in my relationships. I see someone and I make shit up like Brian Williams. I escaped on 9/11 from the Twin Towers. Oh no, I didn’t. I got mixed up. F—ing Lance Armstrong liar. Ok.”



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