It came as no surprise when ABC announced Monday that Jenny McCarthy would replace Elisabeth Hasselbeck as co-host of its daytime talk show The View. The 40-year-old McCarthy has already made eight appearances as guest co-host and was reported to be in serious talks for the position last week. “Jenny brings us intelligence as well as warmth and humor,” said The View co-host and executive producer Barbara Walters, who will retire next year. “She can be serious and outrageous. She has connected with our audience and offers a fresh point of view.”
While Walters is excited about McCarthy’s new role, her “fresh point of view” is facing heavy criticism, and not everyone thinks it is the best fit for the show. McCarthy has been outspoken in her opposition to childhood vaccines, basing her stand on her experiences with her 11-year-old son, whom she claims has been cured of autism. Critics say McCarthy doesn’t have the proper education or background to be speaking publicly about vaccines. But perhaps the controversy she will bring to the show is part of her appeal. After all, she is replacing the outspoken and often-contentious Hasselbeck. The 36-year-old new Fox & Friends co-host took a lot of heat for her conservative opinions on The View, particularly for her stances on the morning-after pill and the war in Iraq. McCarthy’s position on the panel might keep the show from becoming a complete snoozefest.
But controversial opinions aren’t the only thing Hasselbeck and McCarthy share. Both women come from religious backgrounds. Hasselbeck grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Rhode Island and graduated from an all-girls Catholic school in 1995. She then went on to Jesuit-affiliated Boston College, where she played softball for two seasons and graduated in 1999 with a degree in fine arts. In a January 2012 episode of The View, Hasselbeck revealed that she no longer thought of herself as a Catholic. “I was raised Catholic. I consider myself Christian now,” she said. Her change in stance on Catholicism is similar to that of McCarthy, who was raised in a Catholic family in Chicago and also attended an all-girls Catholic school but strongly questioned the church as an adult. She even wrote a book last year, Bad Habits: Confessions of a Recovering Catholic, in which she described Catholicism as “a subject that has pervaded my life since birth and confused the f*ck out of me for about the same time.”
While McCarthy is coming into her co-host position with two decades of industry experience, Hasselbeck went in with only two years of familiarity. She was cast into the limelight as a contestant on Survivor: The Australian Outback in 2001. Although she only placed fourth, she parlayed the exposure into additional career opportunities, hosting the Style Network’s The Look for Less before replacing Lisa Ling on The View in 2003. McCarthy took a more risqué route to fame, posing in a Playboy spread in 1993 before winning Playmate of the Year. She began hosting the MTV dating show Singled Out in 1995 and starred in the NBC sitcom Jenny two years later. The show was canceled before finishing its first season, but McCarthy stayed in the public eye with more movie and television roles and subsequent Playboy appearances.
In 2002, the traditional Hasselbeck took the family route and married her college boyfriend, Tim Hasselbeck, a former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst. The two are parents to 8-year-old Grace Elisabeth, 5-year-old Taylor Thomas, and 3-year-old Isaiah Timothy. McCarthy, on the other hand, has had a string of celebrity relationships. She married actor John Mallory Asher in 1999 and gave birth to their son, Evan, in 2002. The couple divorced in 2005 and McCarthy began a five-year public romance with actor Jim Carrey. She briefly dated former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher last year and is reportedly seeing New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg.
Hasselbeck and McCarthy have both used their personal experiences to become best-selling authors. McCarthy has written eight books, with the majority focusing on motherhood and raising children with autism. Hasselbeck, who suffers from celiac disease, has written two books about gluten-free diets. She releasedThe G-Free Diet in 2008 and the cookbook Deliciously G-Free in 2012.
Hasselbeck was not always a fan favorite on The View, but she spiced up the panel with her youthful energy and conservative opinions. And McCarthy may not have the same viewpoints as her predecessor, but she brings an equal amount of spice to the show with her background as a Playboy model and divisive parenting ideas. Shrugging off the critics, McCarthy says she is ready to jump into the co-host’s chair when the show’s 17th season premieres September 9. “I’m beyond thrilled … I look forward to helping make hot topics a little bit hotter, and showing my mom that my interrupting skills have finally paid off,” she said Monday.