'The Talk' returns: Sheryl Underwood addresses Sharon Osbourne’s departure

The Talk returned to the air on Monday after CBS's investigation led to the departure of Sharon Osbourne. Sheryl Underwood, whose racism debate with Osbourne led to the investigation and the show's month-long hiatus, appeared at the top of the show, addressing the March 10 drama.

"It's time for an episode of The Talk that will be unlike any other we've had before," Underwood began. "We haven't been together at the studio since the week of March 10. And as you may know, during our break, Sharon decided to leave The Talk."

Underwood, now the longest-running co-host, continued, "We need to process the events of that day and what happened since, so we can get to the healing."

She promised she and co-hosts Carrie Ann Inaba, Amanda Kloots and Elaine Welteroth would "honestly discuss what occurred" during the dramatic episode, which saw Osbourne defending Piers Morgan for calling Meghan Markle a liar for her royal racist claims. That included guests Donald E. Grant, an expert on diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and Anita Phillips, a trauma therapist and life coach to help guide the conversation.

Sheryl Underwood (Screenshot: The Talk/CBS)
Sheryl Underwood kicked off Monday's show backstage with a message about Sharon Osbourne's departure. (Screenshot: The Talk/CBS)

Inaba — who wasn't present for the March 10 showdown — went on to moderate what she described as "one of the most difficult conversations one can have: the talk about race." She said over the "past few weeks individually and as a group we've been in our own healing sessions" with a consulting firm that specializes in diversity and inclusion.

Grant, who was in Osbourne's old seat, guided the conversation, including having a "nervous" Underwood revist what happened with Osbourne. She recalled the showdown, saying she "didn't want to escalate things with Sharon because I thought I was having a conversation with a friend. But also, I knew I had to be an example for others to follow because I didn't want to be perceived as the 'angry Black woman,'" the stereotype unfairly slapped on Black women. "That really scared me. I didn't want to be that. I wanted to remain calm and focused. It's difficult to go back to that day because I feel the trauma. I feel fearful, a little apprehensive."

Welteroth acknowledged Underwood for her "strength," "willpower" and "composure" during the fight with Osbourne. She also felt like she wasn't "heard" during the infamous conversation, saying that "saddened me because part of the reason I joined this show," just this year, "with these diverse, beautiful, intelligent women is I thought we had an opportunity here ... to have conversations to show people how we can bridge these divides in our country and we can do it with empathy."

Elaine Welteroth on Monday's The Talk. (Screenshot: The Talk/CBS)
Elaine Welteroth on Monday's The Talk. (Screenshot: The Talk/CBS)

Underwood later recalled Osbourne telling her "don't you cry" during their exchange. She said she wasn't tearing up because she wanted sympathy, but because she had to restrain her reaction. "Because if I had responded" without restraint, "then I would have been the 'angry Black woman.'" Further, "I'm a grown-ass woman" and shouldn't be told to be silent by her peer.

Welteroth said when she rewatched the controversial episode, she saw "Two Black women walking the same tightrope that Black women are walking every single day in the workplace. As Sheryl said, we knew that we had to stay composed — even in the face of someone who was a) not listening and b) went off the rails into disrespect when we were maintaining our respect within the context of this very complex charge, emotional conversation."

Welteroth also slammed the "false accusations" in the press framing her and Underwood "as some kind of people who attacked a woman on air and were part of some conspiracy." She called it "absolutely categorically false."

Underwood said she feels like she's suffering PTSD as a result of the hurtful exchange with Osbourne "somebody that I love and I trusted."

The March 10 exchange was a bitter one. When Osbourne defended Morgan, she felt that her co-hosts were suggesting that she was racist. It led to her cursing at Underwood as they went to a commercial break. She demanded that Underwood "educate" her on racism as Underwood calmly tried to have a dialogue.

Actress Sheryl Underwood (L) and entertainment personality Sharon Osbourne arrive at the 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills, California June 22, 2014.   REUTERS/Phil McCarten (UNITED STATES  - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)  (DAYTIMEEMMYAWARDS-ARRIVALS)
Sheryl Underwood and Sharon Osbourne arrive at the 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills, California June 22, 2014. (Photo: REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

"It is not the exact words of racism; it’s the implication and the reaction to it," Underwood said. "To not want to address that because she was a Black woman, to try and dismiss it; that’s what makes it racist... But right now, I'm talking to a woman who I believe is my friend and I don't want anybody to watch this and [think] we’re attacking you for being racist."

Days after the March 10 blowup, Osbourne publicly apologized to the Black community. But Osbourne felt she was attacked, and set up by producers.

Amid the hiatus, which was extended more than once, more allegations were made about bad behavior by Osbourne on the set. She called them all "crap" but former co-host Leah Remini claimed Osbourne used racial and homophobic slurs about fellow co-hosts Julie Chen and Sara Gilbert. And Holly Robinson Peete claimed Osbourne, who was the last remaining original co-host, said she was "too ghetto" for the show.

Osbourne called the allegations a "pile-on" and said she wasn't sure she'd want to return to the show. On March 26, CBS announced Osbourne was leaving.

A statement from the network said, in part, "As part of our review, we concluded that Sharon’s behavior toward her co-hosts during the March 10 episode did not align with our values for a respectful workplace. We also did not find any evidence that CBS executives orchestrated the discussion or blindsided any of the hosts."

There has since been a back and forth over whether Osbourne apologized to Underwood for the on-camera flap. Underwood said she didn't, leading Osbourne to leak screenshots showing she did via text. On Monday's show, Underwood said again that Osbourne never called her, but said she did receive texts.

"I want to be clear on this, I have not spoken to Sharon," Underwood said. "I have not had a phone call from her... People have asked me, 'Well, if you see Sharon, what would you do?' First of all, if she greeted me warmly and sincerely, I would give her that in the same because we've been on the show together for 10 years." However, borrowing a line from the late Maya Angelou, she added, "When people show you who they are, believe them."

The Talk airs Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. ET and 1 p.m. PT on CBS.

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