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Mar 13, 1:08 PM EDT

Comic Joy Behar apologizes for comments she made on 'The View' about Vice President Mike Pence and Christianity

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Joy Behar of "The View" apologized Tuesday for suggesting mental illness was behind claims by people that Jesus Christ talks to them, in remarks made on her show last month about Vice President Mike Pence.

Her comments launched a protest that made it all the way to a shareholder's meeting of ABC parent Walt Disney Corp. Pence said on Monday that when Behar called him personally to say she was sorry, he urged her to apologize publicly.

So she did at the top of Tuesday's show.

"I was raised to respect everyone's religious faith and I fell short of that," the comedian said. "I sincerely apologize for what I said."

Show moderator Whoopi Goldberg quickly moved on.

Behar's original comments came on a Feb. 13 show during a discussion that touched upon Pence's Christianity. "It's one thing to talk to Jesus," Behar said. "It's another thing when Jesus talks to you. That's called mental illness, if I'm not correct - hearing voices."

"My question is, can he talk to Mary Magdalene without his wife in the room?" she said.

On the same show, Behar said she did not believe Pence was mentally ill and that he would make a better president than Donald Trump. But the damage had been done. Pence spoke out against the remarks, and "The View" returned to the topic two days later. Behar mentioned being a Christian herself who gives money to her church.

She called it a joke gone awry. "I don't mean to offend people," she said, "but apparently I keep doing it."

The conservative Media Research Center launched a campaign that its president, Brent Bozell, said Tuesday resulted in some 40,000 protest phone calls being placed to ABC and 9,000 to advertisers on "The View."

In response to a question at a shareholder's meeting last week, Disney Corp. chief executive Robert Iger said that Behar had called Pence to apologize. The vice president confirmed that in his interview Monday with Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel.

"I felt it was important that I defend the faith of tens of millions of Americans against that kind of slander," Pence said. "And I did so. And you know, I give Joy Behar a lot of credit. She picked up the phone. She called me. She was very sincere, and she apologized and one of the things my faith teaches me is grace; forgive as you've been forgiven."

He said he told her that it was also important to apologize to all that were upset by what she said.

"The apology is appropriate," said the MRC's Bozell. "One wishes she never said it, and one wishes she had apologized the moment she realized how many people she offended. But she did and it should be accepted."

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