Since her debut on The View in 2007, Whoopi Goldberg has established herself as a favorite among fans of the talk show. And when the actress suddenly disappeared from the line-up, her absence was sorely felt. But Goldberg’s absence on screen thankfully wouldn’t be permanent.
Yes, the star had first vanished from The View’s line-up in February 2019, and her month-long disappearance had gone on to spark rumors. Ultimately, though, Goldberg returned to the show from the comfort of her home in order to reveal what had really happened behind the scenes.
And it turned out that the actress had been struck down with a life-threatening illness, meaning she had spent much of her time off from The View recovering in hospital. At one point, in fact, there was even a chance that she would not survive her ordeal. So, when Goldberg finally reunited with her talk show co-stars, neither they nor the studio audience could contain their excitement.
Goldberg had first risen to fame as a comedian after enjoying success in 1984 with her one-woman project The Spook Show. That act, which deftly blended laughs with drama, saw Goldberg performing monologues in character. And The Spook Show would take Goldberg – a native New Yorker – to Broadway, from where a performance was eventually aired on HBO as Whoopi Goldberg: Direct from Broadway.
What’s more, Goldberg’s work would come to the attention of esteemed movie director Steven Spielberg, who decided to cast the actress in his 1985 film The Color Purple. The hard-hitting drama would provide Goldberg with her big break in Hollywood, with her portrayal of Celie Harris going on to earn her both a Golden Globe and a nomination at the Academy Awards.
Nor would that be the last time that Goldberg appeared on the silver screen. Memorably, the star portrayed psychic Oda Mae Brown in Ghost – a part for which she won another Golden Globe as well as the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She also earned a Golden Globe nomination for her leading role in 1992 comedy Sister Act.
In fact, in 1993 Goldberg was the highest-earning actress in the world. Yet her movie success didn’t mean that she was averse to appearing on TV. Most notably, the Star Trek fan herself joined the cast of The Next Generation as the El-Aurian Guinan.
In recent years, however, perhaps Goldberg’s most prominent role has come courtesy of The View. The actress has starred on the talk show since 2007, when she took over from comedian Rosie O’Donnell as a moderator and co-host.
The View has aired on ABC since 1997, and over the years it has become known for its outspoken panelists – all of whom discuss the pressing issues of the day. And throughout her time on the show, Goldberg has established herself as a firm fan favorite.
In particular, Goldberg is arguably most popular with The View’s more liberal audience members. The actress herself tends to be more left-wing when it comes to politics, meaning viewers who share her beliefs may feel as though she can argue their corner against the more right-leaning panelists on the talk show.
What’s more, Goldberg has earned the respect of The View’s audience through her apparent unflappability. Yes, the star has the ability to keep her co-hosts in check when things become a little heated. And it appears that she’s happy to respect others’ opinions as well – even when they differ from her own.
Indeed, Goldberg’s role as moderator on The View has led journalist and author of Ladies Who Punch, Ramin Setoodeh, to speculate that the chat show couldn’t continue without her. In an interview with TooFab in April 2019, Setoodeh called the actress “one of the keyholders of the franchise.” He added that he believed “there will be questions about the future of The View” if Goldberg was ever to leave the show.
And in 2019 viewers got a glimpse of what The View may be like if Goldberg ever does decide to quit the series. You see, in February that year, the host suddenly disappeared from the show. Yet while co-star Joy Behar initially claimed that Goldberg had simply taken a day’s leave, things ultimately turned out to be much more serious.
Given the timing of Goldberg’s absence – in the middle of award season – there was some speculation that the actress was due to host the 91st Oscars. At that time, the Academy Awards were hostless, as Kevin Hart had previously stepped down from the gig following the controversy surrounding some historic homophobic tweets.
But that year’s Oscars came and went, and there was still no sign of Goldberg. Then during an episode of The View that aired later in February 2019, Behar announced that Goldberg was recovering after contracting pneumonia. Still, even at that point, Behar didn’t mention just how worrying the actress’ battle with the illness had been. And it wasn’t until March 2019 that Goldberg herself revealed that she had almost died.
In that month, Goldberg appeared on The View via a pre-filmed video link. And in the clip, the Oscar-nominated actress explained that not only had she been fighting pneumonia in both her lungs, but that she had also contended with an almost deadly bout of sepsis. Thankfully, though, she was finally on the mend.
In the video, which was subsequently uploaded to the The View’s YouTube channel in March 2019, Goldberg said, “I am here. I am up and moving around – not as fast as I’d like to be – but I am okay. I’m not dead.” And after reassuring her fans that she was recovering, she gave them an account of what had gone down.
Revealing just how serious her illness had been, Goldberg explained to The View’s audience, “I had pneumonia, and I was septic. Pneumonia in both lungs, which meant there was fluid – there was all kinds of stuff going on. And yes, I came very, very close to leaving the Earth. Good news [is]… I didn’t.”
Pneumonia is caused by an infection in the lungs that leads the organs to swell and take in fluid – thus limiting their function. Sepsis, meanwhile, can occur when the body reacts to an infection by causing damage to its own organs and tissues, with sufferers running the risk of breathing difficulties and liver failure. And pneumonia causes around 50 percent of all sepsis cases.
Septic pneumonia – previously referred to as “blood poisoning” – is a serious condition, and in the past it was often fatal. Even in this day and age, close to one million Americans are struck down by severe septic shock every year. And the condition remains a grave one; an individual with septic pneumonia who receives early intervention still possesses a one in five chance of succumbing to the illness.
Understandably, then, Goldberg was grateful for all the support she’d received in the wake of her health battle. Revealing her gratitude, she told The View, “Thank you for all your good wishes [and] all of the wonderful things that people have been saying. Even people who are not huge fans of mine have actually said nice things about me.”
Displaying some of her signature humor, Goldberg then joked, “We all know that’s going to change when I get back. But for right now, it’s brilliant.” Addressing her The View co-stars, she added, “Ladies, I cannot wait to see y’all. This has been interesting, and I’ll tell you about it when we’re all at the table.”
Goldberg signed off her video link by blowing a kiss to the camera and saying, “To everybody, see you soon.” However, she neglected to mention just when she was planning her return to The View. And only a little under a week after her update aired, Goldberg surprised her co-stars with a visit to the talk show’s set.
On that episode, which aired in March 2019, things had been proceeding ordinarily enough. As she had done so many times during Goldberg’s month-long absence, Behar gave viewers a brief update on her co-star’s condition before promising fans that she’d be back “soon.” However, just as she was wrapping up her tribute, Behar was interrupted by a collective shriek from the studio audience.
At that moment, a figure appeared on set. And just as The View’s panelists turned around to see who was approaching, it became clear that Goldberg had surprised them. Clearly overjoyed, Behar, Sunny Houstin, Ana Navarro, Meghan McCain and Abby Huntsman all jumped from their seats to greet their castmate.
Then, as the View stars reunited with a group hug, the audience rose to their feet and gave Goldberg a standing ovation. The actress took a seat on the panel, too, as her co-stars attempted to compose themselves following her surprise return. And as they watched on, the crowd started shouting “Whoopi” enthusiastically.
After the chorus died down, Goldberg proceeded to give The View’s audience in the studio and at home another update on her health. “This is my first foray out. I’m not there yet, you know that, but the only way it’s going to get better is if I begin. So, this is my beginning,” she explained.
Expanding on her ordeal, Goldberg revealed just how close she had come to losing her life. Gesticulating with her finger, she said, “There’s death, and here’s me. That’s how it was.” Describing the shock of her illness, Goldberg added, “You think because you’ve healed quick before that something crazy can’t happen. Well, it can – a double pneumonia and sepsis.”
And the star explained how she’d had no idea how serious things had been until she had arrived at the hospital with a temperature of 102 °F. “This is a cautionary tale for all of us,” she said. “You must really take care of yourself because there’s little, tiny stuff out there that will kill you that you never think of.”
The first symptoms of Goldberg’s pneumonia had presented themselves in November 2018, when the star had developed a cough. And by the time she ultimately presented at the hospital, her health had taken a worrying turn for the worse. Even back then, though, Goldberg hadn’t realized just how much she had been in danger.
Goldberg later said on The View, “The scariest moment was hearing my doctor say to me, ‘You do realize how close to death you were?’ That was like, ‘Erm, no, actually.’ I hadn’t thought of it. He said, ‘Well, you need to think of it. You need to be really clear about what this is.’”
Luckily, though, Goldberg had survived her illnesses. “[The] prognosis is [that] I’m not supposed to be here, but I got permission,” she revealed. “Suddenly, now my immune system is challenged. So I’m supposed to just ease back in, and I will. I will ease back in.”
It appeared, too, that Goldberg was grateful to the press for not leaking the nature of her absence from The View. “I’m thrilled that everybody kept the secret that I was in [the hospital] and that it was as bad as it was,” she said.
And Goldberg also took the time to pay tribute to her The View co-stars for their support throughout her illness. “You guys were great,” she told Behar, Houstin, Navarro, McCain and Huntsman. Addressing the audience, Goldberg revealed, “They all came to see me at different times, and, you know, it was kind of hard. It was a little scary – scary for everybody.”
Yet even though Goldberg was supposed to be easing herself back into her role on The View, she couldn’t resist sharing a controversial opinion that she had formed as a result of her hospital experience. In particular, the actress took aim at the health insurance industry.
Sharing her point of view, Goldberg said, “One of the things I discovered is [that] your insurance really doesn’t do much for you… And the people who are saying ‘no’ to you are not doctors; they are people looking at algorithms. It got me to thinking, ‘Why is it that I have been paying insurance for over 60 years and it hasn’t rolled over?’”
Goldberg added, “Who told them they could use that money when I wasn’t using it? I feel like if you’re paying into your insurance, that money should roll over until you need it. I know it’s a business, and I don’t mind them taking a little bit, but I don’t remember when they said, ‘Well, we’re just going to keep all this money.’ Because people are busting their chops paying this insurance.”
One particular situation that irked Goldberg occurred when her doctors advised her to use a certain machine. Her insurance company refused this request, however, as it was in favor of another apparatus. And in the end, a frustrated Goldberg asked if she could instead lease the machine using her own money.
Relaying the story on The View Goldberg said, “The insurance people should listen to the doctor… These are things we have the power to take care of… This is my new [mission]. Tell me where you’re putting my money. Sixty years of insurance money and you’re telling me I can’t get this machine? Bitch, I’ll buy the machine!”
And during her surprise visit to the View studio, Goldberg revealed that she’d resume her appearances on screen from the following week. However, she officially rejoined the talk show in April 2019. And since then, Goldberg has slotted right back in at the helm of the panel – just where she belongs.