What Was Rosie Thinking?

Politics can get ugly, especially when you're Rosie O'Donnell.

The former co-host of "The View" is getting heat from fans after posting a photo on her blog -- rosie.com -- that depicts her 4-year-old daughter Vivienne wearing a toy ammunition belt.

Many are accusing her of inappropriately exploiting her daughter to further her own political beliefs. O'Donnell is known for being a staunch anti-war activist and has spoken out against the National Rifle Association repeatedly.

Vivienne's photograph is accompanied by a slideshow that begins with the headline "Last Year a Princess" and displays images of her dressed up like a princess. Later in the slideshow, a headline reads "This Year a Soldier," and the images change to Vivienne wearing the bullet belt, camouflaged clothing and a head scarf.

Are Children Effective Messengers?

Children have been used to add an emotional punch to political messages for years. Those efforts, however, haven't had much success traditionally.

"People don't like children being used for political messages because they know the children aren't choosing to be involved," said Mark Weaver, Republican message strategist and professor at the University of Akron. "It reduced [Rosie's] credibility and marginalizes the messenger's effectiveness because people believe it's one step too far."

Gemma Puglisi, an assistant professor of communication and public relations expert at American University, told ABC News that making bold statements like Rosie's can have harmful long-term effects for her image.

"She wants to make statements and when she does, she does them in a big way and they are controversial," Puglisi said. "But the more she pushes the buttons the angrier she's going to get people and they'll be turned off."

She added that O'Donnell, like other celebrities, are not getting away with as much as they used to.

"People are starting to say, 'Wait a minute,'" said Puglisi. "People are fed up with it and after a certain point people have had it. I think it's going to happen to Rosie eventually, and nobody is going to work with her because she is alienating people."

"She will get a lot of press but it will be counterproductive in the long run for her viewpoint," said Weaver. "Short-term gain, long-term loss."

O'Donnell, Puglisi suggests, should apologize for exploiting her daughter and hope to find a job that allows her to be less confrontational and more humorous, much like how she appeared on her talk show, "The Rosie O'Donnell Show."

Rosie Denies Political Message

A spokeswoman for O'Donnell said the photo was not planned or contrived, and the kids were merely playing soldiers when the snapshots were taken.

"There is no political message, the kids were playing," said O'Donnell representative Cindi Berger. "It wasn't meant to be controversial."

Berger told ABC News that each week, O'Donnell's children buy costumes ranging from princess costumes to medieval costumes and that the ammunition belt was "just one of the costumes."

How Will Exposure Affect Viviane?

"Children at age 4 tend to be thinking in very concrete ways," said Dr. Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System. He added that young children are unable to understand such complex political messages.

Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a psychiatrist at the Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston, gives O'Donnell a little bit more credit, and doesn't think the photographs are all bad.

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