Say what you will about cancel culture, but the truth is many alleged abusers have been able to succeed, even flourish, in Hollywood even after being accused publicly. Woody Allen may be less revered now, but the same information about his alleged misdeeds was available in 1992, and few in the entertainment industry turned their backs on him then.
Except for Rosie O’Donnell, who had no compunction at all about burning that bridge. In a new interview with Howard Stern, she reveals, “I had done an HBO special where I said everything about him. And then I got on my show. So it’s the first year of my show and I get a call and they said, ‘He wants you to be in [Sweet And Lowdown].’ I said, ‘Please send him my HBO special.’ And the woman said, ‘Oh he’s already seen it.’ And I said, ‘Send it anyway with two words: Fuck and no.’ And I sent it to him.”
In the 1995 special, she acknowledged that her agent worried the Allen joke would hurt her career—but O’Donnell still called him a “slimy bookworm lookin’ child molestin’ bastard” and stated, quite clearly, “I don’t wanna work with that fuck anyway.” This curiously did not deter Allen at all, and he even continued to try to pursue her, she tells Stern: “They called back and said, ‘He really wants you to do it. He’d like to talk to you about it.’ I said, ‘I’m not doing it. I’m not working for him or with him and being associated with him.’”
O’Donnell theorizes that Allen was bothered that “he couldn’t use his weight to entice someone over to his side,” adding, “He had a lot of people under his spell.” But turning him down led to a years-long friendship with his ex, Mia Farrow: “She heard that story and she called me to see if it was true and I said, ‘Oh yes, it’s true.’ And she started to cry and said, ‘Even my closest friends didn’t stick behind me during this and that here you did your HBO special and now you did this, I’m forever in your debt.’ I said, ‘You’re not in my debt at all, but you are my friend and I admired you for years and what you’ve done with your life.’”
The situation with Allen was not the only time O’Donnell rebuffed a popular, powerful figure. She also gave the cold shoulder to Michael Jackson, who was also the subject of child molestation accusations in the ’90s (and onward). “We were at a wedding and his guards came over and said, ‘He would like to speak with you.’ I said, ‘I’m not interested… I really don’t want to,’” she recalls. “And finally they said, ‘He’s going to come over here.’ I said, ‘Well, tell him not to because I’m a member of the Children’s Defense Fund and I believe every accusation against him.’ And he didn’t come over.” How many others in Hollywood can say they stood by their convictions like that?