Joy Behar's Most Controversial Moments Ever

Comedian Joy Behar was one of the original co-hosts of "The View," ABC's long-running daytime talk show, where a panel of women discuss and debate the news of the day. At first, according to Ramin Setoodeh's "Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View," Behar was an alternate, filling in for series creator Barbara Walters on days she couldn't be there. Setoodeh reported that the two had a bit of a rivalry at first, with Walters feeling insecure about the fact that Behar tested better, comparing it to an "All About Eve" situation. Soon, though, they settled into a collegial relationship, and, as of 2022, Behar was the only original host still on the panel after almost 25 years on-air.

Though her job on "The View" has been to talk about political and cultural hot topics that were already in the news, Behar has made headlines of her own, thanks to her, at times, caustic personality and her tendency to make ill-timed jokes that didn't always land right. "I've gotten in trouble a few times on the show," Behar told People. "I've had to apologize, which I'm happy to do in order to save mine and everybody else's job. I don't care. Even if I don't mean it, I'll do it." 

From shouting matches with her co-hosts and odd advice for viewers, to awkwardly timed jokes and explosive on-air walk-offs, these are Joy Behar's most controversial moments so far.

She told LGBTQ viewers to 'just come out'

At a pride parade in 1978, trailblazing gay activist, politician, and martyr Harvey Milk famously told the crowd, "Gay brothers and sisters ... you must come out. Come out to your parents ... Come out to your relatives. I know that is hard and will upset them but think of how they will upset you at the voting booth." The speech was recreated in the 2008 film "Milk," and stands as a testament to the power of changing minds by being vulnerable.

In 2021, Joy Behar inadvertently channeled Milk on an episode of "The View." As the panel discussed how political conversations at Thanksgiving can be fraught and stressful, Behar surprised her co-hosts by offering some interesting advice: "I'd like to suggest to everybody out there, come out to your family this Thanksgiving. Just come out. See what happens." 

Fans were not having it, basically telling her: Joy Behar, you are no Harvey Milk. Many viewers felt that Behar was minimizing the difficulty of coming out, and she faced backlash on social media. "Some have been shunned from their family because of it. Not a joke," wrote one viewer in part. "Pressuring people to come out is wrong, as a gay man I find this extremely offensive," tweeted another in part. However, some cheered her suggestion. A supportive editorial ran in The Independent, titled, "Joy Behar has a point about coming out, if you could only hear her over your outrage."

Her handling of a terrorist attack was insensitive

Occasionally, the panelists on "The View" cover breaking news, which happened in March 2019, when a gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The terrorist attack ultimately claimed the lives of 51 people, and the talk show panel was faced with the difficult task of discussing it while keeping the mood light.

"So, everyone's in a good mood," Joy Behar began, "but I'll have to start out with a sad thing and then we'll move on ... Our hearts are just broken over the act of terror that claimed 49 lives in two New Zealand mosques." She entreated viewers to follow ABC News for developments, and then added, "Okay, so now you can get back to being happy again. We're sad for them, but what are we going to do? It's terrible." Fans were not happy about the awkward segue, which came off as insensitive, given the weight of the still-unfolding tragedy. "Today u just lost a longtime Muslim fan," one viewer wrote in part on Twitter.

According to Raw Story, Behar apologized later in the broadcast, seemingly aware of how she had come off. "I have a little bit of a bad feeling about how I set up and talked about the New Zealand tragedy." She insisted that she had not intended to be flippant and added, "I'm very upset about it. It's just that in this job it's hard to make these transitions."

She wore blackface

In 2016, during an episode of "The View" about curly hair (via Jezebel), Joy Behar proudly showed a photo of herself dressed as "a beautiful African woman." Her co-host Raven-Symoné seemed shocked by the image, asking Behar to confirm if she was, in fact, wearing blackface. Behar admitted that she had on makeup "darker than my skin."

The photo resurfaced years later, when The Wrap wrote a piece about the segment amid a national discussion about blackface prompted by an image of then-Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in blackface. Later that year, Donald Trump Jr. used the incident as ammunition in a debate with Behar about cancel culture. "We've all done things that we regret," Trump Jr. said. "I mean, if we're talking about bringing a discourse down, Joy, you've worn blackface." Behar's co-host Whoopi Goldberg jumped in to defend her from the accusation, telling the then-president's son, "She was not in blackface. Being Black, I recognize blackface — this I can say." Trump Jr. later tweeted the photo in question.

The photo came up again in 2020, when a Republican congressional candidate named Kim Klacik confronted Behar about the photo on-air. "Is this Joy speaking, the same Joy that paraded around in blackface not too long ago?" the candidate asked about the 1970s incident, dodging a question about President Trump's complicity in the coronavirus pandemic. Behar protested, "The Black community had my back. They know that was not blackface; that was an homage."

Her joke about a gay NFL player was inappropriate

In 2021, Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as a gay man, revealing his sexuality to the world in a video posted to his Instagram. "I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I'm gay. I've been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest," he said in a widely applauded move. Joy Behar, though, couldn't resist making the obvious joke on-air while discussing Nassib's revelation on "The View." While her co-hosts discussed the ramifications for football culture at large, Behar quipped, "After they said 'penetration in the end zone,' they lost me."

Fans weren't having it. "Are you ok with Joy Behar making homophobic jokes about Carl Nassib?" one viewer tweeted in part to ABC, the network that airs the talk show. They added, "Joy and people like her are why so many remain in the closet. It's NOT ok."

Behar appeared to realize that this wasn't the time or place for a pithy sex joke, and she apologized for the comment later in the broadcast. "That inappropriate joke I made for daytime television, scratch it," she begged. "Make believe I never said it."

She called Bill Clinton's alleged victims 'tramps'

Sexual assault was at the forefront of the 2016 presidential election, thanks to a leaked tape of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump admitting that he abused his power to "grab [women] by the p***y." In an attempt to divert some of the attention away from his own misdeeds, Trump invited several women who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a debate, hoping to throw off his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

"The View" panelists discussed the move. By ignoring the allegations, co-host Sunny Hostin said, "I wonder if she missed the opportunity to address it in a way that the public would understand, that that's just not how you behave." Behar countered and suggested, "'I would like to apologize to those tramps that have slept with my husband.' Maybe should could have said that." The quip didn't go over well online, with many taking issue with Behar describing women who say they were raped as "tramps." It especially offended Bill Clinton's alleged victims themselves. Juanita Broaddrick, who has accused him of rape, tweeted in part, "shame on you Joy — shame on you."

Behar apologized on a later episode of the show (via The Hill), explaining, "I want to apologize. I never, ever intend to belittle sexual assault and the women who are victims of it ever. ... I made a joke. ... I'm sorry."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She said Mike Pence hearing Jesus was mental illness

Vice President Mike Pence made no secret about how his Christian faith guided his governance of the country, which could be considered a controversial stance in a country that was founded on separation of Church and State. In 2018, "The View" panelists talked about former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman's appearance on Celebrity Big Brother during their Hot Topics segment. Manigault-Newman made headlines for warning her housemates against a potential Pence presidency, cautioning them, "I'm Christian; I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things." 

Joy Behar angered some Christian viewers when she used that as a jumping-off point for her discussion on the show. "It's one thing to talk to Jesus. It's another thing when Jesus talks to you," Behar said. "That's called mental illness, if I'm not correct — hearing voices."

Pence wasn't happy about Behar's comments, either, which he discussed on Fox News: "To have ABC have a forum that spoke in such demeaning terms, I think it's evidence of how out of touch some in the mainstream media are with the faith and values of the American people." After Pence brought the conversation up again on Sean Hannity's show, Behar apologized on "The View." She said, "I was raised to respect everyone's religious faith, and I fell short of that. I sincerely apologize for what I said."

She made insensitive remarks about Ukraine

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the world was thrown into a period of uncertainty about the future of international relations. This included the ladies of "The View," who dissected the news as they are wont to do. "It's so disheartening," Whoopi Goldberg said. "My stomach was so tight." Sunny Hostin, on the other hand, noted the possibility of a "refugee crisis in Europe," quoting estimates that up to 5 million people may be affected by the war.

Joy Behar, on the other hand, was upset about what the uncertainty of a massive war in Eastern Europe would mean for safety ... specifically as it related to a vacation she wanted to take on the other part of the continent. "I'm scared of what's gonna happen in Western Europe too. You know? You plan a trip, you wanna go there..." She then revealed that by the royal "you," she meant herself, specifically. "I've wanted go to Italy for four years, and I haven't been able to make it because of the pandemic, and now this. It's like, what's gonna happen there too?"

Conservative media was particularly unhappy with her statement. The New York Post wrote about her remarks, and Fox News covered her statement as well. Behar also faced backlash on social media. "War sucks and all, but what if Joy Behar can't vacation to Italy? I mean Ukrainians should really stop getting selfishly blown up," one viewer wrote sarcastically on Twitter.

She repeatedly misgendered Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner may at one point have been a trailblazing representation of trans women on television, but she has evolved into a controversial figure who receives frequent criticism from the LGBTQ+ community. When Jenner announced her run for governor of California in 2021, "The View" discussed what her candidacy might mean for LGBTQ+ Republicans and the queer community at large. While Sunny Hostin made a point about the country having been run by a different reality TV star, Joy Behar struggled with using the correct pronouns for Jenner, repeatedly referring to "his" campaign.

Twitter personality Yashar Ali tweeted about the incident, reminding his followers not to misgender someone "even if we don't like their politics." As Harvard Health Publishing noted, misgendering "becomes a burden that can negatively impact [trans people's] mental health and their ability to function in the world."

Behar was either aware of or was alerted to her mistake, because she issued a mea culpa after the next commercial break. "Let me apologize for my pronoun mixup," she told the audience. "I think I just didn't get enough sleep last night. I had no intention of mixing them up." Jenner publicly forgave her on Twitter, minimizing the importance of getting pronouns correct. "Don't sweat it, @JoyVBehar. I'm not about cancel culture," she wrote in part. "California has bigger issues than pronouns."

She frequently feuded with Meghan McCain

Joy Behar has been around since the beginning of "The View," minus a few leaves of absence here and there. Accordingly, she has co-hosted with a number of women just as controversial as she has been. Most infamously, she frequently butted heads with Meghan McCain, former Sen. John McCain's daughter. The younger McCain was brought on to the show to express a conservative point of view, which would understandably lead to arguments with the more liberal-leaning Behar. 

One of McCain's and Behar's more heated debates revolved around Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has been accused of sex trafficking. Behar was upset that the Republican Party had not yet removed Gaetz from his committee assignments in Congress. McCain didn't like Behar blaming the party at large, so Behar asked, "My question is, if it's not the Republican Party, shall I call it the 'QAnon Party?' What should I call your party now who defends people like Matt Gaetz and goes against Liz Cheney?"

They also argued about vaccine hesitancy. Behar noted the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and added, "You're not 'owning the libs' by not getting the shot." McCain took issue with that, claiming that people of all political persuasions were hesitant about the vaccine. Behar shot back, "A lot of these people you're talking about are watching Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson." Finally, during an argument about Trump's re-election campaign, McCain insulted Behar on air, snapping, "Don't feel bad for me, b***h!"

The time she told Meghan McCain she didn't miss her

The biggest blow-up between Meghan McCain and Joy Behar, however, came when McCain returned from maternity leave in early 2021. The two got into yet another on-air tiff, this time over (what else?) President Donald Trump's divisive rhetoric. In particular, while the hosts discussed Trump's repeatedly debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him, McCain grew animated, cutting off Behar and insisting that there was Democratic infighting going on as well. While Behar tried to finish her thought, McCain interjected, "You missed me so much, Joy, you missed me so much when I was on maternity leave. You missed me so much, you missed fighting with me."

Behar shook her head and shot back, "I did not. I did not miss you." McCain looked shocked and said, "Oh my god. You know what? That's so nasty."

McCain left "The View" several months later, but she has continued to speak out about the altercation. She told People that the comments sparked a panic attack. "Being told that to my face on national television shocked me and cut me deep. I cried for days," she claimed. In an excerpt from her audiobook memoir published in Variety, McCain went further, saying she felt like she'd been slapped. "When we broke for commercial, I burst into tears. Not just like tearing up, uncontrollable sobbing. I was super hormonal and deeply hurt," she wrote.

She spread incorrect news about Michael Flynn

In 2017, Joy Behar delivered a breaking news report on "The View" about former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's testimony against then-President Donald Trump. Flynn was, at the time, at the center of the FBI's investigation into the Trump administration's alleged collusion with Russia in order to win the 2016 presidential election. "Michael Flynn promised full cooperation to the Muller team, and is prepared to testify that as a candidate, Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians. Yes!" she shouted, tossing the cue card into the air in celebration.

However, the information Behar relayed wasn't exactly correct. As it turned out, Trump was the president-elect when he gave the directive, not the presidential candidate. ABC News' Brian Ross, who delivered the report, was suspended by the company, and ABC News President James Goldston told the company (according to CNN) that the mistake was "very, very, very, very unfortunate" and that he was "really, really angry about it." 

The following Monday, Behar corrected the record on-air, joking on "The View" that she was "guilty of premature evaluation. I hear they have a pill for that now!" After the panel read statements from both ABC News and Ross himself, Behar went on to explain, "People are slamming this as 'fake news.' To me it's a mistake."

She angered nurses

In 2015, Joy Behar and co-host Michelle Collins discussed the Miss America Pageant on "The View." In particular, they focused on Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson. For the talent portion of the pageant, Johnson delivered an original monologue about being a nurse, telling the audience about "Joe," an Alzheimer's patient with night terrors. "Joe reminded me that day that I'm a lifesaver. I'm never going to be 'just a nurse,'" Johnson said. Collins joked that Johnson "basically read her emails out loud," drawing laughter from the "View" panel. "Why does she have a doctor's stethoscope around her neck?" Behar asked, focusing on Johnson's attire rather than the content of her message.

According to Buzzfeed, many nurses who watched the show were upset. The social media hashtag #NursesUnite became a way for nurses to show off their stethoscopes, such as a group shot from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center captioned sarcastically, "Lucky enough to get five doctors to let us borrow their stethoscopes ... for picture purposes only of course!"

The backlash from the segment lost the show advertisers, including Johnson & Johnson, who posted a #NursesUnite statement on Facebook to launch their campaign to raise $50,000 for nursing scholarships. Behar and Collins addressed the complaints on the show. "I was not talking about her as a nurse," Collins insisted. "We were talking about the talent competition, and it got misconstrued." Behar, on the other hand, explained her comment about stethoscopes: "I was just not paying attention."

She called Tiger Woods' alleged mistress a 'hooker'

In late 2009, Tiger Woods' cheating scandal broke wide open, when the National Enquirer named Rachel Uchitel as the golfer's alleged mistress. The tabloid called her a "New York party girl" and alleged that Uchitel had told a friend, "It's Tiger Woods! I don't care about his wife! We're in love." Uchitel, for her part, denied the allegations.

When the ladies of "The View" talked about the emerging controversy on the show, Joy Behar made a joke about the pronunciation of the event planner's last name. "Uchitel ... you could tell she's a hooker," Behar said, according to AccessOnline, who reported that Gloria Allred, Uchitel's lawyer, demanded a retraction. Behar apologized on the show, via NBC10 Philadelphia, telling the audience, "This was intended only as a joke and I apologize for the choice of words and for any misimpression the joke may have created." According to TMZ, Allred released a statement that Behar's apology "resolves the matter with ABC."

It all became water under the bridge for Behar and Uchitel, though, as Uchitel was a guest on Behar's news show, "The Joy Behar Show," which aired on HLN, an offshoot of CNN. Uchitel appeared alongside Dr. Drew Pinsky, and the two discussed Uchitel's appearance on Pinsky's show, "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." "I was a love addict," Uchitel confessed to Behar. 

She walked off set during an interview with Bill O'Reilly

In one of the most widely publicized blowups on "The View," the panel welcomed caustic former Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly as a guest to discuss plans for a mosque several blocks away from the Ground Zero site of the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. O'Reilly and many other conservatives felt that the plans were disrespectful to the memory of 9/11 victims; others, Behar included, pointed out the racist implications of assuming anyone connected to the mosque was responsible for the terror attacks that took place there.

O'Reilly claimed that 70% of Americans were opposed to the mosque, and Behar countered, "I'm American, too."  When O'Reilly said, "Muslims killed us on 9/11," Whoopi Goldberg called the statement "such bulls***." As the argument escalated to a shouting match, Behar stood up and said, "I don't even want to sit here." She and Goldberg walked off-set, disappointing Barbara Walters, the founder of the show. "We should be able to have discussions without washing our hands, screaming, and walking off stage. I love my colleagues, that should not have happened."

"I was really angry. I thought O'Reilly was saying ... something I construe as hate speech, frankly," Behar explained of her reaction on "The Joy Behar Show" (via ABC News).