The View hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the set during a taping Thursday over a heated debated with conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly over the Muslim community centre to be built near Ground Zero in New York.

O'Reilly had talked over their questions and shouted the women down as he argued against Park 51,  the community centre and mosque planned for a site two blocks from the former World Trade Centre towers.

Fellow The View host Barbara Walters berated her colleagues for their reactions.

"You have just seen what should not happen," Walters said. "We should be able to have discussions without washing our hands and screaming and walking offstage. I love my colleagues, but that should not have happened." 

Behar and Goldberg later returned to the set.

The incident occurred as O'Reilly listed reasons he believed U.S. President Barack Obama is out of touch with Americans.

"The mosque down here on 9/11 — that's inappropriate," the Fox News personality said, repeating an argument that the project is an affront because it's close to the site of the 9/11 attacks.

"Sure, they have a right to do it in the constitution, but it's inappropriate because a lot of the 9/11 families, who I know, say 'Look, we don't want that,'" he continued.

Goldberg tried to challenge him, saying "Are you saying that Americans are too stupid to know freedom of religion is in the constitution?" but O'Reilly argued that most Americans oppose the project.

When Behar challenged that statement, O'Reilly said, "Hold it, hold it. Listen to me because you'll learn."

Behar then put bunny ears behind him in response to his tone.

Behar and Goldberg challenged his statement that 70 per cent of Americans oppose the Muslim centre, but O'Reilly talked over them, saying Obama should move against the project "because Muslims killed us on 9/11."

Goldberg began arguing that the Muslims behind the 16-storey centre were not the same ones who did the 9/11 attacks, but was again shouted down.

"Muslims didn't kill us on 9/11? That's what you're saying?" O'Reilly said.

Behar said "I don't want to sit here now" and she and Goldberg walked off the set.

They returned after O'Reilly said that "if anyone felt that I was demeaning all Muslims, I apologize."

With files from The Associated Press