Rosie O'Donnell is facing the music for saying on television that she fears "little people," in an interview with Chelsea Handler, who features a man with dwarfism on her talk show but joked that having sex with one would be "child abuse."
The Little People of America (LPA), a non-profit support organization for people with dwarfism and their families, slammed both her and Handler's comments and said their conversation contained "harmful" themes. It also posted a link to several video responses by people on its Twitter page.
In one YouTube clip, Michael Gogin, a short actor who has played an elf, a dwarf, a gnome and even an Oompa Loompa in a pop culture parody film called "Epic Movie," sings and performs a song titled "Thank You (For Letting Me Be Who I Am)," which he has dedicated to O'Donnell.
"Take it from me, life is short and full of diversity," he tells her, before ripping into the ballad on a guitar. "I thank people for when they accept me for who I am. Maybe you should do the same for yourself."
O'Donnell has apologized for her comments, made during an episode of "The Rosie Show," which airs on Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable channel.
"I have a mild fear or anxiety around little people," O'Donnell had said during her interview with Handler. "I have read that you actually dated little people."
"No, I never dated a little person," Handler replied.
"Did you do a little person? Wasn't that in one of the books?" O'Donnell asked.
"No, no, that would be child abuse," Handler said. "I would never do that."
Handler is known for her E! Entertainment Television talk show "Chelsea Lately," which features a short actor named Chuy Bravo as a regular character, and her new NBC sitcom "Are You There, Chelsea?."
The commediene is often outspoken, especially about her sex life. NBC Universal, which also owns "E!," had no immediate comment about the matter.
O'Donnell said her fear of short people was "handed down from my Nana. My Nana was afraid of the 'Wizard of Oz' Munchkins. And then when a little person has a normal-sized person, I don't understand how that happens."
"That, I don't understand," Handler said.
"I don't get it," O'Donnell added."How come the little person isn't dead when the normal-sized baby comes out?"
"Sometimes, two smalls make a tall," Handler said.
'TWITTER, FACEBOOK BACKLASH'
O'Donnell, whose show is on hiatus until February 27, has has been bombarded by angry responses on her Twitter and Facebook pages.
"@Rosie I'm the daughter of two little people, what you said is wrong on so many levels. Educate yourself before you talk," Twitter user Val Williamson said. @Rosie Being a lesbian you'd think you would know what it's like to have people saying ignorant things about you, and yet you do it to LP's."
"I am a flawed human - I spoke not of ur worth or value -only of my own irrational angst that shames me - can u understand ?" she also said in a message in response to a user named Glen Foster, who had told her: "I hope you face ur fear, phobia or whatever you want to call it of little people. We r people who just happen to be little. What r u?"
She added: "Its my feelings I can't accept - not u - I know we all r equal - we all matter - we all want to be seen and loved - sorry."
Some people feel O'Donnell's apology was insufficient. More than 450 people have posted comments on the Facebook page of her show, including user Monique Conley, who said on Thursday, February 16: "Wow, that's all the respect she can muster is a lousy twitter apology? Hey Rosie, not everyone has twitter ... You can't even have the decency to film an apology?"
Use Christina Jones called for O'Donnell to leave her show.
"Shame on you," she said. "No excuses, the comments you made insight hatred and abuse against little people. Resign or sack this woman."
Another use, Annie Matthew Sagendorf, defended the interview.
"I love Rosie and Chelsea!!" she said. "They were not trying to hurt anyone!! People need to quit taking things wrong!!! It's really anoying how people get offended by someone elses feelings!!! I think she got the message!!! Right or wrong she has the right to her feelings just like the rest of us!!!!"
During her interview with O'Donnell, Handler also discussed other topics, such as sex and her decision to have an abortion at age 16. She also became very emotional as she discussed other topics, namely her mother, who died of cancer in 2005, and the death of her brother, who died after falling off a cliff during a hiking trip, when Handler was 10.
After the episode aired, Handler received several positive Tweets, such as one from a user named Jared, who said: @chelseahandler always loved you... But whole new level reached tonight! Inspiration isn't a big enough word! made me cry, bitch! @Rosie"
"Thank you!" Handler responded. "I thought that was the best interview I've ever had. I love @rosie."
Excerpts from the episode were posted on the website of "The Rosie Show." The segment that shows the two discussing short people is not listed, although several websites, such as The Huffington Post, have included it.
'I LOVE LITTLE PEOPLE'
During "The Rosie Show," O'Donnell asked Handler where she found Bravo. Handler confirmed that the show was looking to cast a short actor, adding: "There's another little person on 'Are You There, Chelsea,' too, another little nugget. I love little people. Whatever you have, I have the opposite. Like, I want to tackle them. I see them and I have to hold myself down. I bite Chuy sometimes."
"He comes in my office and he's so cute," she added. "That's my ultimate body. If you're going to have a little person, I want that shape, the corpulence. He comes in my office and he walks in every day and he goes,' Hello, Miss Chelsea' and he kisses me. It's like having a kid."
The Little People of America group said there are thousands of average-height individuals dating or married to little people.
"We find it extremely offensive that you participated in a conversation that referred to this as 'child abuse,' and that made reference to little people being 'like having a child' or being 'little nuggets,'" the organization added. "Any limits to our full inclusion in society stem from this exact stereotype that we are somehow child-like."
Bravo has appeared on "Chelsea Lately" since its 2007 debut. He has also had small roles in films such as the 2005 movie "The Honeymooners" and the 2007 blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."
"There's not a lot of job opportunities for those kinds of people," Handler also said on "The Rosie Show," during her discussion about individuals with dwarfism. "They need help."
The Little People of America fired back, saying people with dwarfism are employed in almost every profession imaginable, citing "doctors, lawyers, professors, architects and stay- at- home moms or dads."
"While we may have faced discrimination in order to reach our goals, we pursued our goals based upon our individual choices, and each of us has achieved success based upon our talents and ambitions," the group said. "People with dwarfism do not need to be saved. Rather, we need to address the social barriers and stereotypes that make it difficult for some people to reach their goals."
In September 2011, Peter Dinklage became the first short actor to win an Emmy Award. He earned the honor for his supporting role as Tyrion Lannister on the HBO series "Game of Thrones." O'Donnell said on her show that Dinklage is "the greatest actor."
Warwick Davis, one of the most famous short actors in the world, rose to fame playing the title character in Ron Howard's 1988 fantasy film "Willow." Davis went on to co-found his own agency, Willow Management, which is described as "the biggest agency for short actors in the world," with more than 100 clients, including performers who are taller than average.
He also continues to act and appears in Ricky Gervais' comedy series "Life's Too Short," a BBC production that is set to premiere on the American cable channel HBO on Sunday, February 19.
O'Donnell said during her interview with Handler that she feels "bad" about her fear and anxiety of short people.
"It's not like I have negative feelings about them," she told Handler. "It's like, I have so many feelings I can't just act normal. When I do your show, it's going to be a big intervention between me and Chuy."