THERE’S a certain irony to one of showbiz’s most notoriously outspoken women being axed for speaking her mind, on a chat show called The Talk.
Yet that is exactly the predicament Sharon Osbourne this week found herself in.
Her crime? Sticking up for her old pal, Piers Morgan.
Currently in the midst of an increasingly bitter legal battle with US network CBS, Sharon, 68, is the latest victim of cancel culture.
And while sources close to the former X Factor judge reckons she is in line for a multi-million pound pay-out, arguably the damage has already been done.
A friend says: “Sharon isn’t racist, she isn’t homophobic, she isn’t xenophobic — but crucially she isn’t a naturally PC, media-trained, 20-something millennial. And that’s what’s done for her.
‘DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE’
“Anyone who knows Sharon knows how fiercely loyal and passionate she is. If she has your back, she has it for life.
“But at the same time, cross her at your peril.
“Sharon has undoubtedly rubbed people up the wrong way over the past 40 years. She wouldn’t have got to where she has without bruising a few egos, especially male, along the way.
“She calls a spade a spade. But TV, especially in the States, is increasingly run by incredibly well-connected, powerful network execs and producers under 45 and they probably hate everything Sharon stands for.
“There’s long been a culture of toxicity in telly, and terrified of losing advertisers, executives are desperately playing safe with their talent.
“CBS’s ‘investigation’ into Sharon’s behaviour lasted a matter of days for a woman who’s been there 11 series. It seems little more than a show trial.
“Unless she wins this legal battle, the fear is that the insidious reputational damage has been done — and that’s why Sharon is so upset.”
Earlier this week, CBS hinted at the outcome when it issued a statement claiming Sharon’s actions were “not in line” with its own values.
It followed the broadcaster’s decision to put the show on hiatus until next month, following an explosive on-air row between mum-of-three Sharon and co-panellist Sheryl Underwood.
The spat occurred after she had defended former GMB host Piers over his criticism of Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.
This led to an uncomfortable clash with actress Sheryl, 57, who accused Sharon of giving “validation” to “racist views”.
Following their probe, CBS released the following statement: “The events of the March 10 broadcast were upsetting to everyone involved, including the audience watching at home.
'I AM TRULY SORRY'
“As part of our review, we concluded that Sharon’s behaviour toward her co-hosts during the March 10 episode did not align with our values for a respectful workplace.
“We also did not find any evidence that CBS executives orchestrated the discussion or blindsided any of the hosts.”
For her part, Sharon had already issued a grovelling statement on Twitter, saying: “I have deep respect and love for the black community.
“To anyone of colour that I offended and/or to anyone that feels confused or let down by what I said, I am truly sorry.
“I panicked, felt blindsided, got defensive and allowed my horror and fear of being accused of being racist take over.”
Needless to say she has the full support of Piers.
However, as anyone who has ever got on the wrong side of Sharon will testify, she is like a cornered animal when under attack — though not many animals would get their offspring to defecate in a Tiffany box to post to critics, as Sharon claims to have done.
But racist she isn’t.
Last year she privately donated £800,000 to Black Lives Matter and in February was one of 170 stars, including singers Craig David, Diane Warren and Gene Simmons, to officially back the Jewish-black alliance against hate.
Sharon, who considers herself “51 per cent Ashkenazi Jewish”, has previously spoken of the horrendous anti-Semitism faced by her dad, legendary late music agent Don Arden.
The dismissal of such a strong woman sets a dangerous precedent.
From managing rocker husband Ozzy’s career — a man who bit off the head of a bat — to holding her own in boardrooms filled with men in grey suits, Sharon has seen, done and overcome it all, and she is not changing for anyone.
But if the PC police have their way, she will have to move with the increasingly woke times or face a long, boring retirement out of the limelight.
DANNII ‘UNBEARABLE’ & ‘INTOLERABLE’
And Sharon would sooner eat a whole bat than leave the world of celebrity.
She was an original pioneer of reality TV, launching her cult MTV series The Osbournes in 2002.
She famously enjoyed three stints on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor — back when it was the biggest show on Saturday night telly — eventually leaving in 2017, and was a judge on America’s Got Talent for five years until 2012.
Off-screen she is every bit as wild, free-spirited and fun as you would hope.
When I bumped into her one night in an LA restaurant, she invited me to join her table, plied me with margaritas, smashed one against the back wall during a particularly fiery debate and kindly tried (and failed) to set me up with her mate.
On every occasion we have been out, she has insisted on paying, and on one, sober, occasion, even insisted on driving me back home.
But fall out with her at your peril — just ask Dannii Minogue, or anyone who received one of those Tiffany boxes.
Sharon and Dannii, 49, were judges together on The X Factor for three years, with the Australian singer later claiming she hated her time on the series thanks to her co-star.
In retaliation, Sharon wrote in her 2013 autobiography Unbreakable that her time with Dannii was “unbearable”, “intolerable” and “an odious chore”.
Personal issues aside, Sharon is a doyenne of showbusiness. But can you teach an old dog new tricks?
Mrs O, who has nine pooches, is a rottweiler among sausage dogs.
But over the past 20 years, the star, who battled colon cancer in 2002, has repeatedly used her platform for good.
In addition to countless charity donations, she helped raise awareness of preventative breast cancer measures when she revealed in 2012 she had undergone a double mastectomy after discovering she carried a gene for the disease.
One of the accusations most recently set out against Sharon is that she once referred to ex-colleague Julie Chen, who is Chinese-American, as “slanty eyes”.
The allegation, which she denies, was said to refer to a comment from more than ten years ago.
Adds a friend: “Sharon takes the p**s out of all her friends, but it’s done without malice.
“She’ll happily rib a porky pal, or someone with bad fashion sense, but it’s all done in jest.
“The fear now is that she’ll be so gagged, TV bosses will be too scared to touch her again. Which would be a travesty.
“For the meantime, until lawyers settle, she will keep her head down and concentrate on spending more time with family.”
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