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Rosie O'Donnell Hasn't Forgiven Ellen DeGeneres for '00s Snub: "I Don't Trust This Person."

She says that they were friends until one fateful interview.

Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres shared a groundbreaking moment on the former's talk show in the mid-'90s. But O'Donnell never made a reciprocal appearance at any point in the 19 years that DeGeneres was hosting her own hugely successful talk show. In a new interview, the 61-year-old comedian revealed why.

According to O'Donnell, she and DeGeneres used to be friends when they were both stand-ups getting their start in the entertainment industry. But she also said that she's never gotten over watching her former pal diss her on TV. DeGeneres has reached out to O'Donnell in the years since, but it hasn't led to a reconciliation. "I don't trust this person to be in my world," O'Donnell said in a new interview.

Read on to find out what DeGeneres said about O'Donnell and to learn more about their rocky relationship.

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O'Donnell and DeGeneres shared a coming-out moment on TV.

In 1996, DeGeneres appeared on The Rosie O'Donnell Show to promote her sitcom Ellen and "The Puppy Episode"—the one in which her character, Ellen Morgan, came out as gay. The most famous Ellen episode would air soon after DeGeneres herself came out publicly.

During her Rosie appearance, DeGeneres joked that the episode—which, due to a leak, was already rumored to include a coming-out story—would reveal that Ellen Morgan was "Lebanese."

During the segment, O'Donnell joked, "Maybe I'm Lebanese. I could be Lebanese myself." DeGeneres responded, "I pick up sometimes that you might be Lebanese." Both women would come out publicly in more explicit ways in the following years; DeGeneres in 1997 and O'Donnell in 2002.

O'Donnell said they were friends before this.

Rosie O'Donnell at the "Game of Thrones" final season premiere in 2019
lev radin / Shutterstock

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, O'Donnell explained that she and DeGeneres were friends prior to the comedian appearing on her talk show and that they came up with the Lebanese bit together.

"I had said to her, 'I don't want you to be out there alone,' because the reason she was doing publicity was 'The Puppy Episode,' this big surprise episode of her sitcom," O'Donnell explained. "And it had been rumored that's what she was doing, coming out, but nobody really knew. I had known her for years doing stand-up and as young entertainers in Hollywood. Me, Melissa [Etheridge], k.d. [lang] and Ellen, we all would go to parties together."

She added of DeGeneres, "It was a good relationship. We were friends. We supported each other."

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She can't get over something DeGeneres said about her.

O'Donnell told The Hollywood Reporter that she and DeGeneres went their separate ways as they followed their own success, but that their relationship also changed because of something DeGeneres said in another TV interview.

"She said it on Larry King Live. Larry King said, 'Whatever happened to Rosie O'Donnell's show? She went down the tubes as soon as she came out.' And the quote that Ellen said was, 'I don't know Rosie. We're not friends.' I was watching TV in bed with my wife going, 'Did she just say that?'"

O'Donnell also shared the story during a 2022 episode of Watch What Happens Live. "We had a little bit of a weird thing," she said. "Ellen said and I'm quoting, 'I don't know Rosie. We're not friends.' And I was in bed with [ex] Kelli [Carpenter], and I went, 'Did I just hear that?' … And that's what happened, and it hurt my feelings like a baby and I never really got over it."

King did ask DeGeneres about O'Donnell's career.

Ellen DeGeneres at the 2004 Daytime Emmy Awards
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

The interview O'Donnell is referring to happened in 2004. DeGeneres had launched her talk show a year prior. King asked her what she thought happened with O'Donnell's show, which went off the air after six years in 2002.

"I don't know. You know, maybe she didn't—I don't really know Rosie that well," DeGeneres said. "I mean, I've spoken to her, but we're not really friends. We don't, like—so I don't really know and I couldn't say what her…"

O'Donnell said DeGeneres texted her about it.

Rosie O'Donnell at the premiere of "Russian Doll" in 2019
lev radin / Shutterstock

In her recent Hollywood Reporter interview, O'Donnell shared that DeGeneres texted her after she referenced the slight on Watch What Happens Live.

"She wrote, 'I'm really sorry and I don't remember that,'" O'Donnell said. "I guess she saw me talk about it on Andy Cohen's show. I remembered it so well, I had T-shirts printed and I gave them to my staff that said 'I don't know Rosie. We're not friends.' I have a picture of her holding [my then-infant son] Parker. I know her mother. I could identify her brother without her in the room. I knew her for so many years. It just felt like I don't trust this person to be in my world."

O'Donnell also said, "It would never occur to me to say 'I don't know her' about somebody whose babies I held when they were born. It wouldn't be in my lexicon of choices to ever say."

The League of Their Own star said that she was told no when she once asked about appearing on DeGeneres' show. When she was invited to come on later, she turned down the opportunity. "I wish her all good things in her life and that she should be well," O'Donnell concluded during her WWHL interview.

She addressed the allegations about DeGeneres' show.

Ellen DeGeneres at the "Green Eggs and Ham" premiere in 2019
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

In 2020, after employees at The Ellen DeGeneres Show claimed that it was a toxic work environment, O'Donnell commented on the revelations. "You can't fake your essence," she said on the podcast Busy Philipps Is Doing Her Best (via Us Weekly). "That's why I have compassion for Ellen, right? I have compassion, even though, you know, I hear the stories and I understand. I think she has some social awkwardness."

At the time, she gave a different reason for why she had never been a guest on DeGeneres' show. "You know how Ellen surprises everyone?" she said. "I've never done that show because I'm terrified she's going to scare me and give me a heart attack."

As for DeGeneres, she apologized on the air. "I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," she said. "I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power and I realized that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show." The show ended in May 2022.

Best Life has reached out to a representative for DeGeneres regarding O'Donnell's recent interview.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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