Rosie O'Donnell slams 'mean' Kelly Ripa: She ‘gay bashed’ Clay Aiken

Rosie O’Donnell is opening up, for the first time, about the 2006 incident with Kelly Ripa and Clay Aiken. In Us Weekly’s exclusive excerpt of Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View, O’Donnell, 57, details what happened behind the scenes.

In November 2006, Aiken joined Ripa as a cohost on Live With Regis and Kelly, and the two did not hit it off. At one point, he put his hand over her mouth and she said, “I don’t know where that’s been, honey!” O’Donnell responded to Ripa’s comment the next day on The View, saying it was “a homophobic remark.” She added, “If that was a straight man, if that was a cute man, if that was a guy that she didn’t question his sexuality, she would’ve said a different thing.”

In the new tell-all book, written by Ramin Setoodeh, O’Donnell explains why she defended Aiken:

A few days before he went on Live he had been a guest on The View. “He had come into my dressing room, crying about whether or not to come out. And I sat down with him and I talked to him. He was inching his way out in the way so many born-again Southern Christians have to. I hugged him. Not only do I feel the twenty-years-older mother thing, I feel the twenty-years-old younger-gay thing.” When she saw Ripa on TV that day, Rosie couldn’t bottle her anger.

“So I had just held a crying boy and then watched him be gay bashed by Kelly Ripa,” Rosie said.

After the show, Rosie heard from Aiken. First, she said that he thanked her for defending him. And second: “I didn’t know how to come out, so you just did it.”

Photo: Getty

However, Setoodeh also spoke with the former American Idol star, who explained what happened from his end:

Aiken’s recollection of these events is slightly different from Rosie’s. “I have a horrible memory, but I know exactly how this s–t went down,” he told me. Aiken said he’d been worried about his interview on The View, because a prominent news anchor had warned him the cohosts might ask him about his sexuality on TV. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Rosie invited Aiken to her dressing room to talk privately before the show, kicking out her makeup team and his bodyguard. “She said, ‘You need to find yourself a boyfriend in North Carolina — not in New York or Los Angeles — and just live peacefully there.’ I said, ‘You’re very presumptuous, Rosie.’ She took my hand, looked me dead in the eye and with more warmth than I think people would imagine she has, she said, ‘Listen, I’m your sister.’ I teared up. It was the very first time a stranger had ever gotten me to come out to them.”

As he left her dressing room, Rosie promised Aiken a shield of protection. “Nobody is going to ask you about this on the show,” she said. “And if they do, just let this d-ke take care of it.”

But Aiken had no idea that Rosie would make his sexual orientation a talking point after the Ripa incident. “I didn’t see it the same way that she did,” he said. “The truth is she outed me in a way, because I had not been out yet. When she said the words, ‘If that was a straight man,’ she was confirming that she knew that I wasn’t. That was the worst day of my life. I don’t think I’d had a moment more devastating to me. I remember feeling like shit that day and totally defeated. But I definitely wasn’t mad at her.” Aiken said that Rosie later helped him officially come out on the cover of People in 2008, by introducing him to her publicist.

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Clay Aiken in recent years
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Clay Aiken in recent years
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03: Clay Aiken attends the 'Once On This Island' Broadway Opening Night at Circle in the Square Theatre on December 3, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Clay Aiken attends the 11th Annual IAVA Heroes Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken onstage during the opening night curtain call for 'Ruben & Clay's First Annual Christmas Show' on December 11, 2018 at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 16: Clay Aiken discusses 'Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show' with the Build Series at Build Studio on November 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard attend the Broadway Opening Night of 'The Prom' at The Longacre Theatre on November 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 21: Clay Aiken speaks onstage at Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Clay Aiken attends then Broadway Family invite to The Final Dress Rehearsal Of Harvey Fierstein's 'Torch Song' on October 8, 2018 at the Hayes Theatre in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: Clay Aiken attends the Broadway opening night performance for 'Children of a Lesser God' at Studio 54 Theatre on April 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22: Meghan McCain and Clay Aiken pose at the opening night after party for Disney's new hit musical 'Frozen' on Broadway at Terminal 5 on March 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/WireImage)
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After O’Donnell spoke out about Ripa on air, the former soap opera star called into The View to respond, calling the claims she was homophobic “downright outrageous.” Now, even so many years later, O’Donnell states she and Ripa still are not friendly.

To me, Rosie didn’t mince her words about Ripa: “I think Kelly Ripa is mean and she doesn’t like me, and she has never wanted to discuss what happened. She wanted to have this weird feud.” Rosie said that under normal circumstances, she would have bonded with Ripa through her All My Children lineage. “She’s the girl from Pine Valley. She and her husband met on the show. That’s my f–king sweet spot. I would have loved her my whole life.” The two never mended fences after the View incident. “I see her at concerts sometimes,” Rosie said. “She just looks away.”

In the end, Rosie was most upset with The View executive producer for connecting the call. The show hadn’t done that before. “Bill Geddie thinks that makes good TV—two women fighting.” Rosie confronted them about it. “I said, ‘Excuse me Bill, that would be the first time that you sabotaged me live on the air. It will not happen again. If it does happen again, I will not be on the show.” Rosie paused for dramatic effect. “When it happened again, I left.”

Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View will be released on Tuesday, April 2.

RELATED: See photos of Rosie O'Donnell with her daughter

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Chelsea O'Donnell, daughter of Rosie O'Donnell
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Chelsea O'Donnell, daughter of Rosie O'Donnell
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Rosie O'Donnell and Chelsea Belle O'Donnell pose at the '2nd Annual Fran Drescher Cancer Schmancer Sunset Cabaret Cruise' on The SS Hornblower Infinity Crusie Ship on June 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: Chelsea Belle O'Donnell and Vivienne Rose O'Donnell attend Fran Drescher's 2016 Cabaret Cruise at Pier 40 on June 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Vivienne Rose O'Donnell, Rosie O'Donnell and Chelsea Belle O'Donnell attend the 5th Annual Rosie's Theater Kids Spring Benefit at The Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater on May 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: (L-R) Vivienne Rose O'Donnell, Rosie O'Donnell, Chelsea Belle O'Donnell and Blake Christopher O'Donnell attend the 5th Annual Rosie's Theater Kids Spring Benefit at The Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater on May 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: ***EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE*** (L-R) Blake O'Donnell, Parker O'Donnell, Chelsea O'Donnell, Nathan Lane as 'Gomez Addams', Vivian O'Donnell, Rosie O'Donnell and Bebe Neuwirth as 'Morticia Addams' pose backstage at 'The Addams Family' on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on August 3, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
Vivienne Carpenter-O'Donnell, Kelli Carpenter, Chelsea Carpenter-O'Donnell, Rosie O'Donnell, Blake Carpenter-O'Donnell and Parker Carpenter-O'Donnell attend the HBO screening of A Family is A Family: A Rosie O'Donnell Celebration at the HBO Theater on January 19, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
Rosie O'Donnell, Chelsea O'Donnell and Billie Jean King (Photo by M. Von Holden/Getty Images)
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