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Staffer Testifies on Rosie Cancer Remark

November 5, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ A cancer survivor burst into tears Wednesday when she testified that Rosie O’Donnell had suggested she was lying about goings-on at her now-defunct magazine and told her that liars get cancer.

Cindy Spengler, who was head of marketing at ``Rosie″ magazine, said O’Donnell made the remark after a meeting to discuss the magazine’s problems. Spengler said O’Donnell called and told her that her silence in the meeting was tantamount to lying.

``You know what happens to people who lie,″ the witness quoted O’Donnell as saying. ``They get sick and they get cancer. If they keep lying, they get it again.″

Spengler testified in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court, where O’Donnell and ``Rosie″ publisher Gruner+Jahr USA are suing each other for breach of contract.

She told O’Donnell, ``Your mother died of breast cancer. Was she lying?″

``Yes,″ Spengler quoted the entertainer as replying.

O’Donnell said her mother had lied about a ``childhood incident″ involving the entertainer, according to the testimony.

O’Donnell’s publicist, Cindi Berger, said Spengler was talking about lies the actress’ mother told about O’Donnell being molested by a male relative as a child. She refused to give details, but said the incident is in ``Find Me,″ her autobiography.

Berger said O’Donnell later apologized for the remark to Spengler, who testified that she herself had survived breast cancer. Spengler lives in Westport, Conn., and is now a G+J marketing vice president.

Spengler admitted sending an e-mail on Oct. 1, 2002, to Susan Toepfer, Rosie’s editor-in-chief, suggesting that ``we do out own little ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ song and dance″ to celebrate the severance of O’Donnell’s relationship with G+J.

Toepfer responded via e-mail that she wanted to move into O’Donnell’s office, that she would ``take out the bad vibes″ and said ``I think you’re supposed to burn sage in all the corners.″

In an excerpt from a videotaped deposition, O’Donnell’s domestic partner, Kelli Carpenter, acknowledged that the entertainer made the ``cancer″ comment to Spengler. Carpenter has been in court for each of the trial’s four days.

O’Donnell quit the magazine in mid-September 2002, following a months long dispute over editorial control. That dispute arose over a cover photo that pictured O’Donnell and actresses from ``The Sopranos″ television show. The cover was never used.

The publishers sued O’Donnell for $100 million, alleging breach of contract for walking away from the glossy monthly. She countersued for $125 million, declaring that by cutting her out of key editorial decisions, G+J had violated its contract with her.

The case will be decided by state Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman, who has overseen other high-profile cases involving Joan Collins and Woody Allen.

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