Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian 

Television host Joy Behar is no stranger to controversy. Typically, though, Behar plays the foil for right-wing pundits and meme generators looking for an easy target representing the political opposition. Behar, both for her outspoken politics and for her position on the TV talk show “The View,” tend to be a conspicuous target for certain groups.

This time, though, Behar could be in hot water with people on her own side of the political spectrum. The situation began to unfold when, according to the Associated Press, “an old photo resurfaced” which, according to various media reports, the host “used makeup to darken her skin” as part of a Halloween costume.

Now, it should come as no surprise that any whiff of “blackface” in the past of a public figure could come out now and bite them. That tends to be the public trend. There’s even a fake photo making the rounds of someone who is obviously not Hillary Clinton labeled as being Hillary and Bill at a costume party in college.

The current Behar controversy involves a show segment of a much earlier vintage. Back in 2016, the panel was discussing new trending hair styles involving curly dos. Behar offered up a photo of herself from more than 40 years ago in which she is depicted as attending a Halloween party as, in her own words, “a beautiful African woman.”

“The View” co-host Raven Symone had a few questions for Behar in that segment, including whether or not she had used tanning lotion to darken her skin. Behar said she used “makeup that was a little bit darker than my skin.”

For about three years, that was that. Now, though, with the ongoing saga of Virginia’s governor and attorney general being hammered in the press for wearing blackface, and the resignation of Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel for going to a party dressed as “a Hurricane Katrina victim,” anything related to blackface is coming back around.

And, as we say quite often, the Internet is forever. Someone found the clip of Behar and Symone’s conversation, saw the photo, and the clip started making the rounds on social media. You know what happened next.

As of this writing, both Behar and ABC, which airs “The View,” are essentially ignoring the uproar, refusing to comment on the issue in any fashion. That silence only fueled the furor, with angry critics accusing “the media” of a “double standard,” since NBC pushed Megyn Kelly out over comments related to blackface Halloween costumes.

Still, Behar and ABC stayed quiet. They may be hoping this will die down, so they won’t have to address it. For the moment, a decent working plan … though silence in these situations does have an expiration date. They need to be prepared for a potential escalation that silence won’t effectively counter.

 ***

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading NY PR agency.