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    Ripa Rips Clay; Rosie Responds

    Brooke vs. Tom? Settled. O.J. vs. the truth? Irrelevant. Kelly vs. Clay...vs. Rosie?

    Now, there's a feud we can get behind.

    What began with brief yet cutting accusations of ungentlemanly behavior and disrespect steamrolled into allegations of homophobia Tuesday morning, when Rosie O'Donnell blasted Kelly Ripa for making what O'Donnell deemed a homophobic remark to Ripa's guest cohost, Clay Aiken, last week.

    This is what happens when Regis takes a day off.

    On Friday, the American Idol runner-up sat in for Philbin on Live with Regis and Kelly, and while he appeared quite garrulous, if not a little snarky, during the show's opening coffee talk segment—taking shots at the then impending TomKat wedding and Ripa's singing ability—he apparently soon felt he couldn't get a word in edgewise, at which point he took matters into his own hands.

    Literally.

    During a segment in which Dancing with the Stars champ Emmitt Smith and partner Cheryl Burke were being interviewed, Aiken attempted to eke out a question, only to be interrupted by Ripa. Clearly frustrated, he covered her mouth with his hand, at which Ripa responded with the riposte heard round the world—or at least the morning talk-show circuit.

    "Oh, that's a no-no," she said. "I don't know where that hand's been, honey."

    On Monday morning, the ordinarily perky cohost addressed Aiken's "impropriety" on air, saying she felt a lot of hostility from the "Invincible" warbler.

    "When you're in the public eye, you have to be respectful of other people, and I don't think he was respectful in any way. You don't put your hands over somebody's face when they're conducting an interview, even if it's for a laugh."

    Not even Regis' reasoning managed to change her tune.

    "Sometimes people get nervous when they come out here for the first time, maybe it comes across as hostility," Philbin said, further opining that Aiken might have "got nervous" and that maybe "he got frightened."

    "In my wildest dreams would I ever think that you would have a feud with Clay Aiken."

    Enter Rosie.

    O'Donnell opened The View on Tuesday by airing a clip of the hand-over-mouth incident and claiming Ripa's retort of not knowing where his hand had been was wildly out of bounds.

    "To me, that was a homophobic remark," O'Donnell said. "If that was a straight man, if that was a cute man, if that was a guy that she didn't question his sexuality, she would have said a different thing. I guarantee if that was Mario Lopez, she would not have said the same thing."

    O'Donnell failed to note that Aiken has never publicly addressed speculation that he's gay.

    As for Ripa, she was not content to be labeled a homophobe on national television and phoned into The View to defend herself.

    "I am the only talk-show host, I believe, who's ever interviewed him who didn't question his sexuality," she said. "To imply anything homophobic was outrageous, Rosie, and you know better. You should be more responsible.

    "You're implying that that action and what I said was homophobic and that's outrageous."

    Ripa further explained that her comment was in reference not to any alleged sexual proclivities, but due to the fact that she has three kids whose health she is constantly concerned about and that during a commercial break—in the height of cold and flu season, no less—Aiken shook hands with several audience members.

    As for why Aiken might have muzzled her, Ripa theorized that he probably thought, " 'I'm going to use this opportunity to steamroll over you, because I've been bullied so much that I'm going to bully you.'

    "I was not combative or attacking him in any way, I was very warm," Ripa continued. "I treat everyone with equal dignity and respect, a dignity and respect that was not shown to me."

    For all the fuss, Ripa nevertheless says she forgives Aiken "even if he doesn't apologize" and bears him no ill will.

    Though the same can't be said about the Clay Nation.

    The message boards on Aiken's official Website, as well as a throng of Aiken-adoring forums, have been bombarded with calls to boycott Live in the wake of Ripa's initial comments.

    On www.clayaiken.com, the ambitiously named Clays Dream Lover asked, "Why should he apologize to her? He had to fight for airtime with her. That girl can't shut her mouth for 10 seconds. If anyone was rude, it was Kelly."

    Poster Keri Giles agreed, writing, "How dare she bash him on today's show without him being there to defend himself!!??!!"

    Of course, for all their adulation, the Claymates may not be the best readers of a situation. Immediately after Friday's Live, a devotee named Loveuclay posted the following assessment: "Love the way Clay danced and he was a good host and I think Kelly likes him."

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