Is Rosie a lesbian? Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer want the scoop!

ABC News Stars Deny Rift Over Story

NEW YORK (AP) – ABC News stars Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer on Tuesday denied any rift between them over an interview in which talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell is expected to discuss her homosexuality for the first time publicly.

Walters said, however, that she should have been more sensitive to any public perception that she was trying to undermine Sawyer.

Sawyer landed the much-sought interview with O’Donnell, which is to air on ABC’s « Primetime Thursday » on March 14. O’Donnell will reportedly talk about her sexuality in the context of opposing a Florida law restricting the adoption of children by gay couples.

Last Thursday — the day Sawyer taped her interview with O’Donnell — Walters and her co-hosts on ABC’s « The View » talked briefly about the case. In doing so, they publicly asserted that O’Donnell was a lesbian.

« What concerns Rosie is not just this case but that she has three adopted children and a foster child herself, and she, because she is gay, would not be allowed to adopt this child, » Walters said on « The View. »

Walters said she had not competed with Sawyer to land a prime-time interview with O’Donnell. She was aware Sawyer would be speaking to O’Donnell, but Walters said she didn’t have that interview in mind when the subject came up on « The View. »

(Images from ABC)

« This had nothing to do with getting an interview with Rosie, but I am sensitive enough now as I look back to see how it could be interpreted that way and how, if one didn’t know the story and wanted to create a story, it could look as if I was trying to harm Diane, » Walters said on Tuesday.

« This is not the evil axis, » she said. « This is a little misunderstanding. »

« The View » hosts decided to talk about the subject because of newspaper stories about O’Donnell, Walters said. She said she called O’Donnell that morning to ask if it were OK to talk about her sexuality, and O’Donnell said yes.

A week earlier, Fox News Channel talk-show host Bill O’Reilly had talked about O’Donnell’s sexuality during a guest appearance on « The View, » angering the show’s hosts.

Sawyer said she and Walters talked Tuesday about « The View’s » discussion and she was satisfied there was no attempt to undermine her work. She had been most concerned that it had occurred without O’Donnell’s knowledge, which she believed would be wrong, Sawyer said.

« Barbara and I talked about that and I am now completely relaxed about it, » Sawyer said.

ABC’s announcement of the March 14 special frames it as a look at gay adoption featuring an O’Donnell interview. A second special, to be broadcast in April, will be about her upcoming autobiography, « Find Me. »

O’Donnell’s spokeswoman, Cindi Berger, said O’Donnell agreed to speak to Sawyer because « it was a political issue that was near and dear to her. For that reason, she was compelled to speak and speak openly. »

O’Donnell is ending her run as a daytime TV talk-show host in May.

The timing of Sawyers’ interview and Walters’ discussion on « The View » revived stories about competition between the two. The New York Times, in a story last week, said ABC News President David Westin had to sit the « ferocious » rivals down in fall 2000 and strike a truce after they competed over interviews with Yasser Arafat (newsweb sites).

« I cannot tell you how much we hate this story, » Walters said Tuesday, adding that she and Sawyer have bumped heads on stories far fewer times than one would expect, given their respective roles.

It doesn’t mean the two news stars can’t have fun with it. Both dined separately at the Four Seasons in Manhattan on Tuesday, where observers could notice a scratch on Sawyer’s face. She got it when she ran into a tree while walking her dog over the weekend.

« I’m going to tell everybody that I did it, » Walters said.