With 'The Talk' paused for a CBS probe, Sharon Osbourne rejects racist allegations

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Christie D'Zurilla
·5 min read
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TV personality Sheryl Underwood watches and listens as Sharon Osbourne lets a few f-bombs fly.
"The Talk" panelists Sheryl Underwood, left, and Sharon Osbourne had a heated exchange about racism last week. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

"The Talk" is taking a break following heated discussions last week among Sharon Osbourne and her fellow panelists — particularly Sheryl Underwood — springing from Oprah Winfrey's buzzy interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

Meanwhile, Osbourne defended herself on social media against allegations of past racist behavior that were leveled at her online.

Various outlets reported over the weekend that the show was being paused for an internal CBS investigation into an emotional, on-air exchange between Osbourne and Underwood about racism, the duchess and British TV presenter Piers Morgan.

"We are committed to a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace," CBS said in a statement Friday. "All matters related to the Wednesday episode of 'The Talk' are currently under internal review."

Mrs. O, as she's called on the show, publicly stated that she supported Morgan's freedom of speech when it came to Meghan, whom the British journalist did not believe when she spoke about feeling suicidal.

“They pay him for his opinion. ... He’s a royalist, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” she said on Tuesday’s show. “The generation he was born into, we were all taught to be royalists.”

By Wednesday, however, the mood on “The Talk” was tense as the discussion continued.

Osbourne stated that while she supported her friend that didn’t mean she agreed with everything he said. And she thought he shouldn't have walked off the "Good Morning Britain" set Tuesday when his cohosts held him accountable for his behavior toward Meghan. (Morgan resigned that afternoon.)

“Why is it that because I supported a longtime friend and work colleague of mine, for years, that everybody goes, ‘If you support him, then you must be racist, because he’s racist'?" Osbourne wondered.

“I’m not racist. Neither is Piers racist,” Osbourne continued, “and I hate the fact of even saying, ‘I’m not racist.’ It’s a terrible, evil word to call anybody without knowledge of that. What have I ever said about anybody that is racist? It is not within me. It’s not within me, who I am, it’s not in my soul. I don’t care what color or what religion anyone is."

Underwood mentioned that when Morgan appeared on “The Talk,” she explained to him that what he was saying about Meghan was racist — something he disagreed with.

Fellow panelist Elaine Welteroth, who, like Underwood, is Black, called for antiracism and mentioned unconscious bias. She also said the situation was uncomfortable, because nobody wants to be the person who calls out a friend on national TV.

At that point Osbourne, who had been near tears, erupted.

"I feel ... 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. And for me, at 68 years of age, to have to turn around and say, ‘I ain’t racist.’ ... How can I be racist about anybody or anything in my life? How can I?”

Underwood, whom Osbourne challenged to "educate" her about what Morgan had said that was racist, replied, “It’s not the exact words of racism. It’s the implication and the reaction to it. To not want to address that because she is a Black woman and to try to dismiss it or to make it seem less than what it is, that’s what makes it racist."

Then the discussion spilled over into the real world. On Friday, Holly Robinson Peete, a former panelist on "The Talk," alleged that Osbourne played a racist part in getting her kicked off the show in 2011, saying she had complained that Peete was "too ghetto."

"I’m old enough to remember when Sharon complained that I was too 'ghetto' for #theTalk...then I was gone," Peete tweeted. "I bring this up now bc I was mortified watching the disrespectful condescending tone she took w/her co host who remained calm & respectful because...she HAD to."

Osbourne vehemently denied Peete's allegation, tweeting Saturday, "I am sharing an e mail sent to me from Holly one month after she was let go by CBS. As I have stated before, I have never had the ability/authority to get anyone fired from The Talk."

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In the 2011 email, Peete talked in part about Osbourne not returning her calls and said she had gotten calls from people who described the show as "like a communist state where all are paralyzed in fear of the wrath of Julie." She was referring to Julie Chen, wife of former CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves and a panelist on "The Talk" from 2010 to 2018.

"If you are angry that I complained to CBS about Julie and the 'racist' comment I apologize but I owe it to my family to try to stop the venomous lies Julie is spreading," wrote Robinson, who also accused former President Trump of calling her the N-word while she was on "Celebrity Apprentice."

Leah Remini, who also left "The Talk" after the first season, tweeted in 2012 that Osbourne had her and Peete fired because, in Osbourne's alleged words, they were "ghetto." Remini said Osbourne made the observation while talking on air with Howard Stern.

While Osbourne and two other "The Talk" hosts did appear on the Stern show in 2011, it was unclear whether that word was uttered in that venue. Journalist Yashar Ali, however, tweeted Saturday that he had reported extensively on CBS at the time and had "definitive reporting" that it was an accurate quote. He also said the email from Peete didn't tell the whole story.

But it was all quite clear to Osbourne, who said in an addendum to her Saturday tweet, "Never in my life did I utter the words that Holly was 'too ghetto' to be on the Talk, as well as not having her fired."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.