I didn't follow the news that actor and activist Rosie Perez was hired as a co-host of ABC's The View. The time had come and gone to make the hiring of the show's first Latina a social statement or game-changing for ratings. In eighteen years, technology has given us more choices to hear the point of view of the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Furthermore, the show has lost relevancy, reflected in part by vapid competitor The Talk on CBS closing the ratings gap. But when the rumors earlier this month trashed Rosie, in part for not being able to read a TelePrompter, I was offended.
I wasn't alone as the firestorm on my social media proved.
Writer and former Latina Magazine editor Sandra Guzmán tipped me off on Facebook. There and on Twitter, I saw:
Literally meaning "I am Rosie," the hashtag reveals how personally Latinos are taking the Hollywood Mean Girls tiki tiki likely generated by internal show staff, as reported in Variety. Soon afterwards, an open letter demanding an apology to Rosie from ABC executives circulated, generating hundreds of thousands of page views. Latino Rebels founder and media producer Julio Varela described the signatories a "rockstar-like" list of Hispanic women.
Personally, I feel meh about Rosie--neither a critic nor a fan. But the egregious rumors sounded similar to the trashing of Sonia Sotomayor by the Senate Judiciary committee which I covered as a Washington, D.C. based correspondent for ABC News (which in a reorganization oversees The View). Remember when then Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) channeled his inner Ricky Ricardo, saying Sotomayor had a lot of: "'splainin' to do"?
Click to watch:
Translating for white network executives: the rumors went from the typical Hollywood playbook to oust someone to an ethnic slight not just to Rosie, but all Latinas:
- Rosie can't read a TelePrompter = all Hispanic women are stupid (cuchi cuchi).
- Sagging ratings are not the fault of cast chemistry, producer judgement, unimaginative guest bookers and writers but the fault of the Hispana (who can't read prompter).
The View, ABC executives, (who have a joint venture--Fusion--with Univision) and their diversity consultants have poured over reams of data which document the rise of Latina power--heading the consumer spending and decisions of Latino's $1 trillion dollar spending power. With rapid-fire organization and response reminiscent of the Karl Rove White House, this open letter's dozens of influencers in politics and business drew a line in the sand with their stilettos, catching the attention of the Latino advocacy community, TV execs, advertisers alike.
Soon afterwards, the rumor mill began churning again. But this time, the word on the street is that Rosie was never going to be fired but on leave to rehearse for her role in the Broadway show "Fish in the Dark" and is scheduled to return to The View this week.
With films such as Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Broadway, and TV shows under her belt, there's little doubt that Rosie is talented. But is she the best choice for The View? In addition to better producers and management as noted above, a daytime co-host needs to be more Oprah than Bernadette Peters--informed, curious, sharp-witted yet warm, accessible, spontaneous, and confident. Rosie may not have that Q score magic--right now. But given how badly The View and ABC bungled the hire of their first Latina host, they may be stuck with her.