Barbara Walters‘s head is spinning like Linda Blair‘s in The Exorcist after “enemies” leaked Elisabeth Hasselbeck‘s head-rolling. (Click photo to watch.)
Babs wanted to lop it off on HER time after she jettisoned Joy.
NYP Exclusive! Rumors swirling that Hasselbeck was on her way out forced Walters to say last Monday, “We have no plans for Elisabeth to leave this show.” But a source tells us, “ABC is desperate to freshen the show. Ratings are going soft, and research numbers on the stars’ likability are scaring network execs.
“Dumping Joy Behar, who was there 16 years, and Hasselbeck would be the fastest way to do it, they decided. After giving Behar the bad news last week and letting her bow out gracefully, someone leaked the Hasselbeck thing. Some enemies she has on the show saw their chance to get back at her. Barbara was spitting mad that it got mishandled, and called off the firing over [last] weekend.”
While we heard Hasselbeck would go when her contract is up next year, the source added, “It could be earlier, because the ABC brass believes the show needs to be younged-up fast. They easily could coax her to go early.”
Meanwhile the well-manicured claws are out for Behar’s still-warm seat, with “GMA” anchor George Stephanopoulos’ actress-comic wife Ali Wentworth a favorite. But Christie Brinkley is also lobbying hard for the job.
Another source said, “They want another comedienne, so Ali is the favorite. And she’s already seen as part of the ABC family because of George. But Christie really wants the job. Brooke Shields is also very much liked.
“But, just as they did with ‘Live! with Kelly and Michael,’ they won’t rush. They’ll test out a number of hosts to see who works best with the women and the audience.” A rep for “The View” said, “This was all addressed on Monday’s show. [Walters] is not the least bit angry. She loves these women and wants what’s best for them. Everything else is speculation. Producers haven’t begun to search for a new co-host. We have no further comment.”