Month 2006 Ethics Dunces

Rosie O'Donnell

Out of trivial TV moments, large Ethics Dunces can emerge. And so is it is that when singer Clay Aiken, subbing as co-host for Regis Philbin on "Regis and Kelly," impulsively clapped his hand over Ripa's mouth, he set the stage for Rosie O'Donnell to shove her own foot in hers.

Ripa didn't like having Aiken's paw on her lips, and reprimanded him by saying it was a "no-no." "I don't know where that hand has been, honey," she added. O'Donnell, from her unfortunate position as permanent conversation monopolizer on her own daytime show, "The View," promptly accused Ripa of being homophobic. "If that was a straight man, or a cute man, or a man that she, you know, didn't question his sexuality, she would have said a different thing," Rosie pronounced, using that psychic ability for which she is so celebrated.

If Aiken had, for example, spit in Ripa's face, would she have been out of bounds to object? If she did, would it be blatant homophobia? One suspects (but knowing how Rosie is, one can't be too certain) that O'Donnell would be less quick to condemn Kelly, but why? Rosie apparently doesn't mind strangers putting their hands over her mouth (perhaps because it happens so often), but presumably is less supportive of a loogie in the puss. Well, it wasn't Rosie's mouth that met Aiken's hand, it was Ripa's…and she can fairly and ethically object to his actions. If Aiken had put his hand over famous germaphobe Howie Mandel's mouth and he reacted with horror, would Rosie have been similarly critical of the "Deal or No Deal" host?

You see, Rosie, there's a reason why the law regards touching another without consent a civil tort known as battery. A person has a right not to be touched unless he or she has given implied or explicit permission. Admittedly, in phony kiss-and-hug-happy Hollywood this may seem like an alien concept, but it was part of the common law long before anyone knew that someone could catch colds and other diseases from shaking hands. Agreed: It would have been kinder for Ripa to register her objections off-camera, as it seems clear that Aiken meant no harm. But clapping one's hand over someone else's mouth without permission or warning is worthy of reprimand, even if the owner of the assaulted mouth knows "where that hand has been." If he or she doesn't, it's a legitimate concern. When my mother used to tell me not to touch her food when she didn't know where my hand had been, I don't think she was making an allegation about my sexuality.

A couple of enterprising websites tracked down footage of Ripa putting her hand over Regis' mouth, as if this made her objection to Aiken's conduct hypocritical. Balderdash. Philbin and Ripa are partners; they work together, and like all entertainment teams of long-standing they have a relationship of trust with established ground rules about physical contact. She had permission to touch Regis. That did not give Aiken permission to touch her.

In addition to making an unfair and unwarranted accusation about Ripa's view on homosexuality (an especially damning thing to say in show business, where one either works harmoniously with gays or not at all), Rosie managed to insult Aiken as well. She essentially outed him, though Aiken has resolutely refused to respond to persistent rumors about his sexual orientation. She also suggested he wasn't cute!

That sure was a lot of gratuitous harm packed into one semi-articulate sentence. But Rosie O'Donnell is a remarkable woman. She is also a rip-roaring Ethics Dunce. Please somebody, since she doesn't mind, clap your hand over her mouth and leave it there.

 

 

 

   
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