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ABC News suspends Whoopi Goldberg over her comments about the Holocaust

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Whoopi Goldberg has been suspended for two weeks. The co-host of the ABC show "The View" faced criticism for a comment she made on TV about the Holocaust. It happened on Monday's program. The cast was discussing a book about the Holocaust that was banned by a school district. And Goldberg described the murder of millions of Jews in World War II in a certain way. This is part of the discussion.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VIEW")

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Well, also, if you're going to do this, then let's be truthful about it - because the Holocaust isn't about race. It's not about race...

JOY BEHAR: What is it about?

GOLDBERG: ...Because you - it's about man's inhumanity to man.

INSKEEP: She apologized on the show the next day, but was suspended by ABC after the broadcast. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is covering the story.

Eric, good morning.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So we've heard a little bit of the conversation. But how did this develop as - into a suspension?

DEGGANS: Well, it started Monday with this discussion on "Maus," the graphic novel by Art Spiegelman that one Tennessee school district has banned. Goldberg seemed to equate the idea of racial oppression with differences in skin color, essentially saying that white people couldn't be racist against other white people. Now, some of her co-hosts disagreed, but Goldberg was insistent. Later, she apologized for her words. But she appeared on CBS's "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," and she seemed to reiterate her previous statements, even while apologizing for making them. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT")

GOLDBERG: But I thought it was a salient discussion because, as a Black person, I think of race as being something that I can see. So I see you, and I know what race you are. And the discussion was about how I felt about that. I felt that it was really more about man's inhumanity to man.

DEGGANS: So ultimately, Goldberg went on "The View" on Tuesday and offered a more complete apology and led a discussion with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt where they talked about how the Nazis consider the Jews an inferior race. And Goldberg said that she stood corrected and stands with the Jewish community.

INSKEEP: Well, if it was all talked out on television, then why was she suspended anyway?

DEGGANS: Well, in a statement released to NPR, ABC News president Kim Godwin said about Goldberg, quote, "I've asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments." I think Godwin was caught in a tough spot 'cause some critics said a less popular host would have been fired for saying something similar. But Goldberg supporters said she had apologized and seemed to be trying to learn from what happened. And there's a lot of concern about problems with antisemitism across the country. ABC had to be sensitive to those concerns.

Now, The Daily Beast has reported that Goldberg's co-hosts were upset with the suspension. And they also noted that some other people wondered why it took ABC News so long to act. So it seems like Godwin is giving Goldberg some time off for the controversy to die down. And it might also be a way to salvage a key player on the show. I mean, Goldberg's been on the show since 2007. She's served as a host, a discussion leader and a stabilizing presence on a show that's seen a lot of turnover among the other co-hosts over the years.

INSKEEP: Well, let's pick up on a phrase you just used. You said salvage a key player on the show. Is that possible?

DEGGANS: Well, I hope it's possible. I mean, it's odd. You know, I personally attended a Jewish-centered middle school from grades five to eight, and I'm African American. And I remember back then being surprised to learn that different groups of white people could be racist against each other. I think in America, we're often encouraged to only see racial issues in terms of skin color. So I think that if a commentator makes a mistake in good faith, we have to allow that if they apologize, if they articulate what they did wrong, if they vow not to do it again, that there's a way that they can get a second chance.

INSKEEP: Eric, thanks for the insights - really appreciate it.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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