Rosie O'Donnell

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Rosie O'Donnell Square Off

05/23/2007 at 12:50 PM EDT



It's always Rosie O'Donnell versus Elisabeth Hasselbeck when it comes to political discussions – but on The View Wednesday morning, the debate turned personal when O'Donnell called her cohost "cowardly" for not defending O'Donnell's position on the troops in Iraq.

The source of the blowup? A discussion last week in which Hasselbeck and O'Donnell debated the meaning of the word "terrorist." O'Donnell asked, "655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?" On Wednesday, O'Donnell accused Hasselbeck of not defending her when media outlets, including, O'Donnell said, FOX News, claimed she'd called U.S. troops terrorists.

"You are my friend since September," O'Donnell told Hasselbeck. "Do you believe that I think our troops are terrorists? And you would not even look me in the face, Elisabeth, and say, 'No, Rosie.' "

Answered Hasselbeck: "You are an adult, and I'm not going to be the person for you to explain your thoughts. ... Defend your own insinuations."

In Wednesday's argument – filmed in an adversarial split-screen – O'Donnell claimed that she is portrayed in the press as a bully. "Every time I defend [my opinions] it's poor little Elisabeth that I'm picking on," said O'Donnell.

She then promised that for the final few weeks before she leaves the show, she would not engage Hasselbeck in political debate: "For three weeks, you can say all the Republican crap that you want."

But Hasselbeck fumed at the suggestion that she was "cowardly" for saying nothing, telling O'Donnell: "Do not call me a coward because, number one, I sit there every single day and open my heart to tell people exactly what I believe."

As the two squared off, the other cohosts – Joy Behar and guest Sherri Shepherd – were trapped uncomfortably in the middle, and Behar repeatedly attempted to change the subject or distract the sparring women. "Who is directing the show?" she asked. "Let's go to commercial."

But the cameras rolled on.

While O'Donnell and Hasselbeck famously clash over politics, the two have always maintained they share an off-camera friendship. "Everyone's always thinking Ro and I don't get along, we're 'enemies,' " Hasselbeck told PEOPLE in March. "Politically, we're rivals. That is clear. However, we are personally friends. We are on e-mail all day long with each other."

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