Judy Brennan
February 06, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

Can Joan Rivers talk? Perhaps too much. During E!’s Golden Globe Awards PreShow Jan. 18, she cracked that zaftig actress Kathy Bates, who plays Molly Brown in Titanic, was the reason the ship sank. Although Rivers is known for shooting from the lip, many in Hollywood were appalled by the attack. “That was mean and disgusting,” says one industry exec. “Kathy Bates is an award-winning actress.” The question now is, Will E! try to muzzle Rivers during her pre-Oscar show March 23? The program is a highlight for the cable network, but one studio publicist says that celeb reps are telling their clients to avoid her on Oscar night. Still, E! senior VP of programming Fran Shea says the network supports its hostess: “Joan’s unique insight and humor are an integral part of our live coverage.” While Bates can’t be reached for comment, her agent says the actress is unaware of the barb. “But she wouldn’t say anything if she was. She’s a class act.”

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