In Ramin Setoodeh’s upcoming book, Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View — set for release April 2 — O’Donnell, 57, reveals that she had “a little bit of a crush” on Hasselbeck, 41, while they were employed as hosts on the ABC daytime program and denies that they were enemies, admitting, “I loved her.”
“There was a little bit of a crush,” O’Donnell states in a Variety exclusive excerpt. “But not that I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to support, raise, elevate her, like she was the freshman star shortstop and I was the captain of the team.”
“I was going to Scottie Pippen her. If I was Jordan, I was going to give her the ball and let her shoot,” states O’Donnell. “But it was in no way sexualized.”
During their time together on the program, O’Donnell says in the book that she gave Hasselbeck advice about debating on television. “Here’s what I said, ‘I’m the senior. She’s the freshman. I’ve got a really good player on the freshman team, but I have to teach her how to loosen up,’ ” O’Donnell shares.
Although O’Donnell was attracted to Hasselbeck at the time, she didn’t want to act on her feelings.
Still, “I think there were underlying lesbian undertones on both parts,” O’Donnell claims in the book.
A rep for Hasselbeck did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“I think this is something that will hurt her if you write it,” states O’Donnell, who goes on to explain her belief. “She was the MVP of a Division 1 softball team for two years that won the finals. There are not many, in my life, girls with such athletic talent on sports teams that are traditionally male that aren’t at least a little bit gay.”
A year after O’Donnell first joined The View in 2006, she left the show in May 2007, one month before she had been scheduled to leave when her contract expired. She later rejoined the show, but departed once again in February 2015.
Hasselbeck, who served as the conservative voice, left The View in July 2013 for Fox’s daytime talk show Fox & Friends. (The View‘s executive producer Bill Geddie confirms to Setoodeh in the excerpt of the book that Hasselbeck was fired from the show. “Did she know it was coming? I don’t think so,” he says of telling Hasselbeck her contract wasn’t renewed, and adds, “She was emotional. I was emotional.”)
Although Hasselbeck and O’Donnell openly disagreed throughout their time together on the program, it was the explosive on-air confrontation with Hasselbeck about the Iraq War that made O’Donnell abruptly leave.
While O’Donnell says in the book that she was hurt by the argument, she was pained that Hasselbeck didn’t defend her when it came to conservative critics.
“It felt like a lover breaking up,” O’Donnell states in Variety‘s excerpt of the book about her last day on the show with Hasselbeck. “The fight that we had, to me as a gay woman, it felt like this: ‘You don’t love me as much as I love you.’ ‘I’ve taken care of you.’ ‘You have not.’ ‘How could you do that to me?’ ‘I didn’t do anything to you.’”
Ahead of their blow-up on television, gossip reports circulated that O’Donnell’s on-air remarks to Hasselbeck caused the conservative star to cry backstage.
“Under these blonde highlights I consider myself a pretty tough person,” Hasselbeck told PEOPLE in March 2007, more than a month prior to their blow-up. “So don’t cry for me, Argentina.”
At the time, Hasselbeck spoke positively of O’Donnell and said that the duo was friends off-camera.
“Everyone’s always thinking Ro and I don’t get along, we’re ‘enemies,’ ” Hasselbeck told PEOPLE.
She added: “Politically, we’re rivals. That is clear. However, we are personally friends. We are on e-mail all day long with each other.”