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Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Her legacy on 'The View' and why it matters

Television personality Elisabeth Hasselbeck arrives at The Heart

Television personality Elisabeth Hasselbeck arrives at The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection 2010 fashion show in New York. Hasselbeck is leaving the desk at "The View" for the couch on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends." Credit: AP

As Elisabeth Hasselbeck prepares to shove off Wednesday from "The View," it's certainly worth taking a minute to assess what she's meant to the show and why so very many people care -- and they do. She leaves here with a "rep" -- an image, style, vibe that depending on who's doing the judging is either immensely endearing  or profoundly irritating. She is loved or hated. Admired or despised. There is no one -- and I do mean no one -- who takes a look at her, even a glance, then listens to her voice, then absorbs her opinions, who walks away from the set unadorned without some visceral opinion about this woman -- going back all the way to the second edition of "Survivor," where she became famous and went on to meet an equally famous quarterback.

It's just a remarkable characteristic for a TV personality and one that does not come lightly, or without a price.

But why is this so? I've posted a handful of clips below and you can draw your own conclusions, but mine are as follows: She presents a voice, occasionally a shrill one, that is immodestly conservative in stark opposition to her co-hosts who are immodestly not. She is outnumbered, and out-ganged -- someone who can say something and still find a cacophony of reaction, largely negative or invariably so, from her helpmates. Her style is not necessarily to back down or away, but to move sideways -- taking the position, usually, that she's not exactly apologetic for her opinion but not about to go down in flames for it either. That has occasionally even angered conservatives who -- in a damned if you do/damned if you don't sort of way -- accuse her of being a "rino," or Republican In Name Only.

Her battles - and many of them the most famous on the show - were occasionally quixotic (did she really achieve anything by brawling with Kathy Griffin or Bill Maher? After all, they are professional brawlers...) or emotional. She was a heart on the sleeve type who teared up at moments when tears seemed contrived or theatrical -- but since this is theater, that was probably an unexceptional characteristic too. Oh, Elisabeth's tearing up again... OK.  

Her battle, or battles, with Rosie O'Donnell even combined both, or all characteristics -- the lachrymose Elisabeth, the cornered Elisabeth, the comes-out-swinging Elisabeth... Because Rosie was an even greater lightning rod than all these Elisabeths, the audience cheered or jeered loudly and continue to do so to this day. It was, in its own way, great TV. Hasselbeck won this one by the way -- over whether Rosie has called troops "terrorists" -- if only because she didn't back down. Last clip. Check it out.

So soon gone, but forgotten? Not at all. Hasselbeck was a vital ingredient for this show over 10 years -- an essential personality, if you will, who defined it, gave it some punch, even some emotional edge that gave viewers something to grab on to -- and either shake violently, or coddle, lovingly. She produced heat, and gas, and had an opinion that she was not always afraid to share -- even if it was shared on some occasions, timidly. Yes, she was the house conservative, but for many viewers, she was the only conservative on the great mass of TV that stretches from horizon to horizon, with the exception of Fox News, where she will fit right in. "The View" needed her and now I'm left to wonder, who will be the next house Republican here?

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