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.

"This may be her way of calling attention to that children are exposed to violence at a very early age," said Poussaint. "I don't think she's suggesting children be violent but suggesting that this is what society does to children."

Both professionals agree that talking to children about violence is imperative, especially because it is nearly impossible to shield them from violence in the media.

Whether O'Donnell meant anything political or not, many fans are outraged by the photos and say she's exploiting her daughter. Critics said they find the photos particularly offensive because Vivianne is probably too young to fully understand the undertones of the photographs.

Fans have posted their comments under another headline on O'Donnell's site that reads "A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Posts."

One fan who identifies himself as Jon E. wrote: "Not sure of the 'message' you are trying to send with that pic of Viv, but I guarantee many are not going to get it… Children with bullets, even fake…?? What are u thinking?"

Another fan appreciated the image, however disturbing it may be, and commented on the political undertones.

Jessika wrote: "Oh, WOW Vivi looks beautiful! The fact that U let her explore her imagination like that shows what a good mom U R. In some countries though, they are training terrorists that young, how sad is that?"

Rosie's fan base is certainly dominated by mothers, many of whom have strong feelings regarding the latest posting.

Jill Kroog told ABC News in an e-mail, "I think that Rosie may have taken it a bit too far and wonder what she told her daughter as to why she was dressing that way."

Alisha Bice, a mother of two who lives in Iowa, said that the photograph also gives soldiers representing our country a bad connotation. She added that she was surprised a mother would want to see her child's face plastered across Web sites worldwide.

"I think it's ridiculous that she even put a photo of her daughter on the Web site," said Bice. "It's frightening."

Andrea Beaumont, another mother upset by O'Donnell said the photograph isn't even effective, and considers it to be just another way for the celebrity to get media attention.

"Disturbing is the first word that came to mind when I saw the photo of Vivi," said Beaumont.

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