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ABC eventually fired Mario Batali from The Chew after sexual assault allegations emerged against him — although its co-hosts Carla Hall, Michael Symon, and Clinton Kelly continued without Batali for a while. Ultimately, ABC canceled The Chew — and as the show wound down to fans' significant disappointment, Hall compared the experience to a "living funeral," emotional and somber.
But despite Batali's effect on Hall's own career trajectory, she has communicated with him since The Chew's cancellation. And she recently told The Feast that — like so many polarizing topics in a supercharged climate — Batali's complexities have been lost in the oversimplified discussion.
Hall clarified, "Mario never displayed those kinds of actions toward me — it was only respect and very generous in terms of his knowledge in the industry." But she doesn't doubt others experienced the man in a different way.
"I’m very sorry for the women who have had these experiences," she said, later adding, "It’s tough as a woman because I want women to feel like they are safe."
And the whole complicated experience has "made me look at stories very differently in the newspaper" these days, Hall told The Feast. "When you don’t know the person that the story is about, that story becomes 100 percent of the person that you know. When you know them, it becomes a smaller percentage of who you know because you have all of these other experiences."
She personally registers Batali's nuances from direct knowledge of the man. "When you think about all the chefs who came out of his restaurants who have opened restaurants for themselves, or he’s given them an opportunity to open restaurants — all of the giving back, with the New York Food Bank, he has his own foundation for kids, opening a school in Rwanda. There are all of these things that he’s done."
She added, "I’m not saying that the culture doesn’t need to change — because it does need to change. And I think men are realizing, 'Oh wait, we’re taking [behavior toward women] too far. But I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater."
At this point in The Feast's telephone interview, Hall acknowledged, "I’m talking too much,” given the sensitivity of the topic — and recognized that if any advisors had been listening, they’d hasten to suggest, "Carla, shut up, shut up.”
But for her, it's not about emerging from an interview having given merely an unassailable picture of herself, delivering a portrait of a former colleague that is free from any potentially backlash-inducing nuance.
"That's the thing," she said. "It’s complicated and people are complicated. When you know someone, yes, you’re surprised when all this stuff happens. And then they're out of the public eye and you’re constantly being asked — because a lot of times people want you to choose a side and it’s a side against that person."
Ideally, Hall would like to come down on the side of rejecting that shallow approach in favor of promoting actual dialogue.
"It doesn’t create an environment to really talk and say, 'I like this part about you, I don’t like that, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be your friend,'" she told The Feast. "One of the great things about being on daytime television is [The Chew was] about food. And food is that place where we can sit down at a table and discuss food without choosing a side."
She added, "I have fans who are Republicans, Democrats, whatever — conservatives, liberals. We have this commonality of food. And if we can stay in that place, we can start to have a discussion, which is what I'm hoping."
When fans see Hall deviate from what they expect, she hears from them; sometimes they'll say she's taken a position that has "cured" them of being a fan.
To those people, she says, "What are you saying? That I have to follow you step in step in order for you to respect me as a person? Well, then I don’t want you to follow me because that’s not who I am — and I'm hoping that’s not who you are."
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