So what if their political spats often turned into verbal smackdowns? After Rosie O'Donnell told Elisabeth Hasselbeck she's leaving The View, "I wrote her an e-mail and tried to convince her [to stay]," Hasselbeck says. "I told her, 'We'll be going into election season! How can you do this to me?'"

The next morning, on April 25, O'Donnell broke the news on air: She'll sign off from The View when her contract ends on June 21. Despite the tumult of her eight-month run—from her feud with Donald Trump to her controversial views on 9/11—both O'Donnell and ABC network sources say her exit was nothing personal. O'Donnell, 45, refused to commit to a three-year, $6-million offer; and ABC refused to give her the $10 million, one-year deal she wanted. "In the life of a mother with four kids, three years is a very long time," says O'Donnell's rep.

Credited with significantly increasing the ratings of the nearly 10-year-old chatfest, O'Donnell will have plenty of options. Insiders say she could tackle a solo talk show, a late-night show or a variety show—all of which she is exploring. And who'll take her spot on The View? Executive producers Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie—who also haven't permanently filled the seat vacated by Star Jones Reynolds last year—"are waiting for the dust to settle" before making any decisions, says an ABC source. (Trump didn't wait to weigh in, telling PEOPLE, "Probably the only one that could really [replace Rosie] would be me, but I would never do it.")

O'Donnell predicts The View will do just fine. "This show was on for nine years before me," she said in an April 25 video blog. "Believe me, it will continue after I'm gone."

  • Contributors:
  • With Paul Chi,
  • Lesley Messer.