Julie Chen Opens Up About Leaving ‘The Talk’ and the Co-Hosts She Says Worked Against Her (Exclusive)

julie chen moonves

Julie Chen Moonves is opening up like never before in her spiritual new book, But First, God.

In the audio memoir, the reporter, TV personality and longtime Big Brother host shares how her late-in-life spiritual awakening has changed her perspective on everything from her family life to her professional ups and downs. She recently sat down with ET’s Nischelle Turner to go deeper in the calling she feels to share her testimony.

“I feel like God has blessed me with the jobs and the career in broadcasting to get me to this point,” Moonves shared. “I feel like I have to use any and every platform I can to let people know what God has done for me. I spent the first 48 years of my life totally ignoring him and not acknowledging him and those 48 years had a lot of ups and downs. I struggled a lot. I didn’t know he was right there, like, waiting for me to look up.”

“We’re at a time in society right now, in the world, where there’s so much darkness,” she continued. “There’s a lot of anxiety. It’s a dark world we live in, so we all need the light. If I can spread the word of hope and unity and love with telling people what God has done for me, my hope is everyone draws nearer to God, ’cause then he’ll draw near to you and you will have the peace that transcends all understanding.”

In the book, Moonves shares how her faith walk began in earnest during one of the most difficult years of her life, 2018. Her husband, Les Moonves, was fired from his position as the head of CBS following accusations of sexual misconduct, and she was fired from her position as a co-host and moderator on The Talk.

“I was at a loss and my whole life as I knew it got completely turned upside down,” she recalled. “It’s often when we are down and out that we actually get on our knees, and the only way I could get myself up was to look up and to take God’s hand. So it was a blessing… It was like the reset button.”

Opening up about her “humiliating” departure from The Talk, and admitting for the first time that she was fired amid the backlash against her husband, was one of the hardest things to discuss in her memoir, Moonves admitted.

“I had never revealed before that that decision was made for me, and that was embarrassing,” she shared. “It was a hurtful time, so coming to the decision to put that out there– I mean, that was five years ago, so, you know, God heals all wounds… but that was tough.”

The TV host said she was “bitter, party of one” following her dismissal, but came to terms with the career shakeup as part of her faith journey. 

“I had to learn the power of forgiveness and learn it’s not all about you, Julie,” she recalled. “That really wasn’t about me. People do what they do because of something going on in their own heart.”

As for two of her former Talk co-stars whose complaints about working with her during the show’s first season later went public — Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete — Moonves said she’s put those feuds in the past as well, and reconciled with both women.

“I swallowed my foolish pride and we mended fences,” she shared with ET. “The important thing is how far I’ve come — from those initial feelings of anger and betrayal to forgiveness. I’ve had contact with those two people, and there is no hard feelings… It is so powerful to forgive and to feel love.”

“To Leah’s credit, she tried to apologize to me years earlier,” Moonves added. “I had run into her and I was just so hard-hearted and foolish. I didn’t open to her, I didn’t want to hear it. And I’m so glad that God taught me the power of forgiveness, because we’re closer now than ever. You know, we look back and laugh at it.”

Moonves also reconnected with Peete — ironically, at Remini’s 50th birthday party — and she noted “it was nice to reconcile with her too.”

So, would she ever return to The Talk, even as a guest host?

“I don’t think so,” Moonves admitted. “I don’t believe in looking back, moving backwards. I just believe in forward movement. It’s a completely different show now.”

She also opens up in her book about almost turning down the chance to host Big Brother, wanting at the time to focus on more serious journalism. Now, she said, she wouldn’t change a thing about taking on the gig back in 2000.

“Big Brother is oddly enough the longest job I’ve ever held onto, and I love it,” Moonves shared.

And while she says her time on The Talk has been “hard to reconcile” as someone who now believes gossip is a sin, she feels no conflict between her position as a woman of God and the host of a reality show that can often center on trash-talking and backstabbing.

“Big Brother‘s not real life, so that makes it easier,” she noted with a laugh. “It’s a fun, silly competition show, and what I do love is that, at the end of the day, when it’s all over, talk about forgiveness. A lot of the people who were archenemies in the house, not only do they forgive but they became best friends afterwards.”

“And it does give me a platform,” she added. “My little ending, ‘Love one another,’ that’s scripture… So I do get to preach the gospel a little bit.”

As for what Moonves hopes people take away from her memoir — especially those who might only know her as a reality host or former daytime gossiper — the message is simple.

“I hope people realize it is never too late to start a relationship with God — I waited till I was almost 50,” she shared. “And if you do have a relationship with God, a lot of us we veer off, we get distracted. I want to provide hope and faith and unity and love, so that people know that you’re not navigating this world and life on your own. He is there and he wants to help you, but you have to take the first step. He gave us free will, so just sit in stillness in the power of God. You’ll hear him.”

But First, God is available now.

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