Rosie: Ellen is contractually forbidden to talk about gay issues on her show

Rosie O’Donnell‘s in the news again, this time for comments
she made in a new video
posted on her blog
suggesting (okay, outright stating) that the reason Ellen
DeGeneres
never talks about gay stuff on her show is that she is contractually
forbidden from doing so.

Here’s what happened: Rosie read a question from a reader asking, "why
do you talk about being gay all the time? Gay, gay gay. Ellen never mentions
it." Rosie responded:

Ellen’s not allowed to — she signed a contract saying she wouldn’t. It was
on the heels of my show, so that’s why she doesn’t. But you know what, she
also paved the way for a lot of gay people, especially on TV, there were no
gay shows on TV. She was pre-Will and Grace, remember that. So you
know, I talk about gay because I like to, and she doesn’t talk about gay because
she doesn’t want to, or she’s can’t, but who cares? It’s fine. Gay, gay, gay,
gay.

TMZ
contacted a rep for Telepictures, producers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show,
who responded by joking, "She’s gay? Who knew?" then added that this
is completely untrue, and that they have no such contracts with any of their
hosts, saying,"Ellen is free to talk about whatever she wants and we encourage
her to do so."

Hmmm. I guess if it’s a question of who to believe — Hollywood publicists
or Rosie — I’m erring on the side of Rosie, because whatever else you might
say about her, you can’t really call her a liar (in fact, it’s Rosie’s willingness
to speak uncomfortable truths that makes her such a media favorite). That said,
she may have her facts wrong and not know it.

I’m one of the people who actually think it’s okay that Ellen doesn’t talk
about gay topics much on her show, although I wish she wouldn’t be quite so
extreme about it — there’s no reason not to have the cast of The L Word
on her show, for example, or for her not to reference Portia more than once
a year. Ellen does seem to be loosening up a bit, though: in the last few months,
she’s had both T.R. Knight and Neil Patrick Harris on her show talking about
coming out, and she increasingly makes jokes about being gay (like when she
quipped last week about not being able to stand upright following her recent
back injury: "I’m not quite straight. Well, you know that.")

If Ellen doesn’t want to talk about gay issues, though, that’s her right, and
you can make a credible argument that she’s being more subversive this way,
or that she’s more than earned the right to stay quiet on this stuff after being
such a pioneer, etc. (You can also credibly argue the opposite; I’m just saying
this is at least defensible.)

But the idea that she might have signed a contract agreeing not to talk about
it? That’s more than a little unsettling.

You can watch Rosie’s entire video blog (which she does with two friends) here,
but the Ellen comments are several minutes in.

What do you think: true, or not true? And if it is true, does it matter?

Update: Rosie has posted a correction on her blog. See the comments on this post for more — thanks to all of you who followed up!

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