Back on air, ‘The Talk’ reckons with Sharon Osbourne’s exit

“The Talk” returned to the air Monday afternoon with co-hosts Sheryl Underwood, Elaine Welteroth, Amanda Kloots and Carrie Ann Inaba engaging with a diversity and inclusion expert after the recent firing of longtime panelist Sharon Osbourne.

Donald E. Grant, who also focuses on equity and justice, served as moderator as the women discussed the notorious March 10 episode where Osbourne spun out while discussing racism, prompting an extended hiatus while CBS investigated.

“It’s difficult to go back to that day because I just feel the trauma,” Underwood told Grant after saying she had aimed to be an example for people. She said she didn’t want to come across as the stereotype of the “angry Black woman” and explained that she began to tear up while talking to Osbourne because she had to restrain her strong feelings.

Welteroth said viewers that day had seen a familiar scene unfold on TV: two women “walking the tightrope that Black women are walking the entire day in the workplace.” She lamented that the conversation went “off the rails” into disrespect when she and Underwood were trying so hard to keep things respectful.

Welteroth also wanted to make one thing quite clear: She and Underwood, she said, were in no way part of a “conspiracy” to attack Osbourne. Press reports suggesting that scenario were “absolutely, categorically false.” (Osbourne had suggested in an “ET” interview that she was set up by network executives.)

“Even if your voice shakes and even if you don’t have the perfect words,” Welteroth said, “it’s important that you find your voice and stand for your integrity and what you believe in.”

Underwood wanted to go on the record that while she had received text messages from Osbourne, she hadn’t replied to them because she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to behave during an internal investigation. Osbourne considered those texts to be an apology and didn’t understand why Underwood didn’t answer her.

“I have never been through something like this. I didn’t know whether you were supposed to communicate or not communicate. … I have not spoken to Sharon, I haven’t had a phone call from her,” Underwood said, adding that if her friend came up to her and greeted her warmly, she would give that back.

“When you’re friends with someone, you stay friends,” she said.

Kloots said that when the “hard conversation” came up, she went into mediator-therapist mode. “I try to hear everybody’s points of view,” she said.

“We all don’t want to be dismissed,” said Inaba, who had been out sick with an autoimmune condition during the recent drama and was making her return to the show Monday.

“Everyone who has a brain has a bias,” Grant explained later in the show. He said we need to recognize those thoughts, own them and figure out how to unlearn “what the world has taught us.”

Before Monday’s episode, Underwood shared a message from backstage, noting that the co-hosts hadn’t been in the studio together since the week of two contentious episodes that featured conversations about race. Osbourne, the last remaining member of the show’s 2010 debut panel, parted ways with “The Talk” while it was on break.

“We need to process the events of that day and what happened since, so we can get to the healing,” Underwood said Monday, referring to the March 10 episode. “Over the next hour, we will honestly discuss what occurred and explore some of our feelings. And we’ll also show you how anyone can become more comfortable discussing important issues and having difficult conversations. By the end of the hour, we want everyone to feel empowered and ready to move forward.”

“The Talk” broke down in early March a day after Osbourne defended Piers Morgan for not believing statements by the former Meghan Markle in the interview she did with Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey. Underwood asked Osbourne what she had to say to those who said the former “America’s Got Talent” judge was providing cover for a racist. Osbourne declared that neither she nor Morgan was a racist, and the conversation devolved.

“I feel even like I’m about to be put in the electric chair because I have a friend who many people think is a racist, so that makes me a racist,” Osbourne said of Morgan on March 10. She dropped an F-bomb aimed at her friend as the show went to commercial break, then asked Underwood to “educate” her about what Morgan had said that was racist. Osbourne also told Underwood not to cry during their exchange, saying if anyone should be crying it should be herself.

Osbourne apologized publicly via social media March 11, saying she had “panicked, felt blindsided.” Underwood, meanwhile, had moved on with a “forgiveness first” attitude. Still, there was disagreement last week about whether Osbourne had reached out personally to Underwood to say she was sorry.

“The events of the March 10 broadcast were upsetting to everyone involved, including the audience watching at home,” CBS said in a statement March 26. “As part of our review, we concluded that Sharon’s behavior toward her co-hosts during the March 10 episode did not align with our values for a respectful workplace.”

The network said that during its investigation it found no evidence that executives had set up Osbourne.

CBS later denied paying out $10 million to Osbourne as part of her departure.



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