"I didn't come on this show to have a debate. I came on this show to plug a movie. That's what I'm doing here."

The words of a visibly shell-shocked Tom Selleck Wednesday after being blasted by Rosie O'Donnell in a squirm-inducing, nine-minute exchange on the usually celeb-friendly daytime talk show.

Selleck, ostensibly on the Rosie show to promote his upcoming The Love Letter, instead found himself defending his pro-gun politics to O'Donnell--who's spoken loud and strong in recent weeks in support of curbing access to assault rifles in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting massacre.

For its part, O'Donnell's camp insisted after the show that Selleck was warned in advance that the topic of gun control would be addressed.

However, Selleck--who loaned his face to a youth-skewing National Rifle Association ad campaign recently--said in a statment that a daytime talk show is an inappropriate place to conduct such a debate.

And debate they did.

Selleck, who had also been asked about the gun issue earlier in the day by Today show host Katie Couric, told O'Donnell that he didn't believe gun-control laws would have stopped the Columbine shooting. He also said that gun ownership was constitutionally protected.

"What you're really talking about is, 'Are we responsible enough of a society to be this free?' That should frame the debate. My answer, unfortunately in this culture is, 'Probably not.' I'm going to go down with the civil liberties ship for all the Bill of Rights and apply them equally. You can ask me specific questions about anything, but it's simply stupid political rhetoric."

That really got the Kmart pitchwoman going. "It's not stupid political rhetoric," O'Donnell shot back. "We also have freedom of speech, but you're not allowed to yell fire in a crowded theater because it threatens the safety of other people. Assault rifles threaten the safety of other people. There's no reason to have them."

After a few more exchanges, Selleck lost his patience, asking Rosie, "Do you think it's proper to have a debate about the NRA? I'm trying to be fair here. This is absurd. You're calling me a spokesman for the NRA." (The NRA ad campaign Selleck appeared in was sloganed, "I'm the NRA.")

After still more back and forth, a now-anguished O'Donnell tried to calm things down, telling her sparring partner, "This is not supposed to be a personal affront."

Selleck's seemingly well-intended response to that, however--a caustic: "It's certainly very entertaining. Look at the audience; they're laughing and having a good old time"--didn't sit well with Rosie.

"Well, it's a serious subject," O'Donnell replied. "I don't think it's a lot to laugh about."

To which, Selleck could only say, "Okay, that's fine."

Trying to wrap things up quickly, O'Donnell admitted, "This had not gone the way I hoped it had gone," adding, "I would like to thank you for appearing anyway, knowing that we have different views...And if you feel insulted by my questions, I apologize, because it was not a personal attack."

Selleck got in his last words: "It's your show, and you can talk about it after I leave, too."

That ended it, with the now-very-frazzled O'Donnell instructing everyone to "go see The Love Letter starring Tom Selleck, Kate Capshaw and Ellen DeGeneres. It's a great movie."

Maybe, but not nearly as entertaining as her show Wednesday.

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