NEW YORK -- Rosie O'Donnell took the witness stand yesterday to defend herself against a breach-of-contract lawsuit, saying she was persuaded to start her now-defunct magazine, Rosie, by the publishing executive who is trying to ruin her.
O'Donnell was referring to Daniel Brewster, chief executive of Gruner+Jahr USA, the company that published Rosie from April 2001 through December 2002.
O'Donnell said she was open to launching a magazine with her name on it. However, she said, she came away unconvinced after her first meeting with executives of G+J. They asked for another meeting, and Brewster persuaded her to go ahead.
"Mr. Brewster was quite passionate about the Democratic ideals I had espoused on my show," O'Donnell said. "He said I would add a much-needed voice to the world of women's magazines. He convinced me."
O'Donnell said one of her conditions was that she have creative control of Rosie. She said Brewster agreed and told her he would have control of the business side. In testimony Wednesday and earlier yesterday, Brewster said O'Donnell's inflexibility and controlling posture were the cause of much of the tension at the magazine during its final months and ultimately the cause of its demise.
When O'Donnell left court Wednesday evening, she said Brewster had "threatened to ruin me, and he's trying to do it now."
G+J lawyers say O'Donnell destroyed the magazine because of a fight over which cover photo should be used for a feature on actresses from the cable television show "The Sopranos." The cover, showing O'Donnell standing between two of the actresses, was never used.
O'Donnell quit the magazine in mid-September 2002 following a monthslong dispute over editorial control. The publishers sued her for $100 million, alleging breach of contract for walking away. She countersued for $125 million, declaring that by cutting her out of key editorial decisions, G+J had violated its contract with her.