Before Star Jones went public with her gastric bypass surgery in 2007, rumors of the operation hit the gossip columns — something Jones thinks came from her The View co-hosts Barbara Walters and Joy Behar, who she claims were out to destroy her image.
That’s according to author Ramin Setoodeh, who interviewed Jones for his forthcoming tell-all book on the ABC daytime show, Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View.
On Wednesday’s episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Setoodeh recalled the claims from Jones, who was an original cohost on The View when it launched 1997 and remained on the show before getting axed as a cohost in 2006, right before the show’s 10th season.
As Setoodeh told Cohen, “Star Jones said as she was being fired in 2006, both Barbara Walters and Joy Behar were leaking stories of her gastric bypass to The New York Post to ruin her reputation.”
In response, Jones, 57, released a statement to PEOPLE, saying, “My time at The View was one of the great opportunities of my lifetime. Of course there were conflicts over the years, however I will forever consider Barbara Walters (along with my dear friend, the late Johnny Cochran) to be one of my two most influential mentors. The opportunity to sit beside her for so many years was a ‘master class’ in many aspects of my personal and professional life that I relish and am eternally grateful for.”
Reps for Behar, 76, Walters, 89, and The View are not commenting.
That’s not the only tea Setoodeh spilled about Jones on WWHL. He said that Jones had hired Judy Smith — the inspiration for Olivia Pope on Scandal — to orchestrate her surprise exit from The View.
Jones‘ July 2006 departure announcement had been scheduled for two days later, but with Smith’s help, Jones surprised everyone on the panel (including Walters herself) when she announced on her own terms that she was leaving, he said.
The next day, Jones was absent from the program, with Walters reading a statement explaining that Jones decided not to “leave with dignity” and had made it “uncomfortable for us to pretend that everything is the same at the table.”
This is just one of the many revelations to come out of Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View, which drops April 2.
Excerpts of the title released this week have grabbed headline after headline, from Rosie O’Donnell claiming that she had a non-sexual “crush” on costar Elisabeth Hasselbeck to Jenny McCarthy claiming that Walters would constantly yell at her behind the scenes (over everything from her wardrobe to her stance on vaccines).
As for Jones, she told Glamour in 2007 that her decision to stay quiet about her gastric bypass surgery for so long wasn’t about keeping anything from viewers, but because she was “scared of what people might think of me.”
“I had spent my entire adult life telling everyone that I was fine with the way I looked. I never thought I’d have to explain it,” she said. “The toughest part of the journey has been forgiving myself for not having the self-control I know I should have had, or admitting I needed help.”
The surgery, which she had in August 2003, came after she had ballooned up to 307 pounds. She revealed that she had been feeling lonely and using food as a tool to fill the void. “Whenever I felt lonely, a Double Whopper with cheese became my friend,” she said. “If I felt sad, six strips of bacon made me feel better.”
“Even though I claimed to be just fine with my weight, I saw how other women [colleagues] were treated like the girlfriend, while I was treated like the good friend,” she wrote. “To compensate for my insecurities, I spoke louder and ate more.”
After surgery, Jones rapidly lost upwards of 160 pounds over a three-year period.
“I say with all sincerity, the surgery saved my life,” Jones later said on her CourtTV show. “It started me on a journey of health. But sitting down with a therapist and getting into my own head, and unlocking doors that I had shut forever, that also saved my life.”