True to form for the most attention-getting, indeed notorious, panelist among the outspoken women of The View, Meghan McCain’s impending departure from ABC’s daytime talkfest is rife with behind-the-scenes melodrama, wicked gossip, trash-talking, and idle speculation.
And shortly after McCain and her co-hosts (with the possible exception of frequent antagonist Joy Behar) spent the top of Thursday’s show ladling heaping helpings of love and praise on the 36-year-old new mom and wishing her Godspeed, McCain’s former employer, Fox News, took full advantage of the situation.
Asked if the late maverick Republican and Trump-loathing senator John McCain’s daughter would ever be welcomed back by the right-leaning cable channel, where she spent a couple of years as an on-air contributor and regular co-host of Outnumbered before jumping to The View in October 2017, a Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast: “Meghan McCain is a star and we are always interested in exceptional talent.”
Last December McCain told The Daily Beast (where she was briefly a columnist a dozen years ago) that she was a fan of beleaguered Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott because Scott told the size-12 McCain, “We hired you for you, and we like originals here at Fox. And nobody should ever change a body to work here.”
“That was the first time a boss had ever said that to me and the best thing a boss ever said to me. I will never forget that,” McCain said at the time.
Alas, a triumphant return to the Rupert Murdoch-controlled outlet—which recently agreed to pay a million-dollar fine to New York City’s Commission on Human Rights while admitting to fostering an illegal workplace culture featuring sexual harassment of women, forced secret arbitration to resolve complaints without negative publicity, and career-ending retaliation—is not in the cards.
According to people familiar with McCain’s thinking, her attitude toward Fox News is basically “been there, done that.”
“She’s really outgrown it, and they’re just batshit crazy over there,” said one of McCain’s confidants.
Another reason, this person said, is that McCain’s husband, Ben Domenech, founder and publisher of The Federalist, a right-wing online magazine, is a regular Fox News contributor who is apparently expanding his on-air role there and recently subbed in the anchor chair for a vacationing Laura Ingraham.
Instead, according to this person and others in McCain’s orbit, she is weighing a number of ideas that would allow her editorial independence and time with her baby daughter Liberty while not requiring her to move from suburban Washington, D.C., to New York, a city for which she has little love.
Those possibilities include becoming a political contributor to ABC News, hosting a podcast featuring longform interviews with celebrities and politicos, and even working in the family business of politics. This fall, McCain’s audiobook, Bad Republicans—touted as a “blueprint” for “bold conservatism in the 21st Century”—is scheduled to be released by Audible.
On Thursday’s installment of The View, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Haines and Sunny Hostin spoke as though they were McCain’s closest friends who will bitterly miss her when she leaves in late July at the end of the show’s 24th season. It fell to Behar—whose rancorous battles with McCain often led to uncomfortable television—to inject some reality into the proceedings.
“You and I have had our disagreements, we’ve had our fights. We’ve also had some drinking moments which were rather fun and interesting,” the dry-eyed Behar told McCain. “I really have appreciated the fact that you were a formidable opponent in many ways and you spoke your mind. And you’re no snowflake, missy.”
During a private zoom conference call in late May involving The View’s regular co-hosts and newly installed ABC News President Kimberly Godwin, concerning the on-air attacks that were getting in Godwin’s opinion too ugly and too personal, Behar singled out McCain as “the problem” who incited the program’s dysfunctional relationships on air and off, according to people with knowledge of the exchange.
When Godwin disagreed and told her to stop, Behar told her either “don’t be a pussy,” according to an account sympathetic to McCain, or “don’t pussyfoot,” according to an account sympathetic to Behar. Whoopi Goldberg also defended McCain. Yet McCain blew her top over Behar’s apparent personal attack, along with her alleged insult to the president of ABC News—and hung up.
While a source connected with the program claimed Thursday that Godwin simply decided that McCain was too much trouble and should leave—two seasons short of her deal with ABC—others close to McCain and a knowledgeable person at ABC said that account was false. Two sources maintained that Godwin asked McCain repeatedly to stay and give her time to fix the interpersonal issues.
The latter version of events, anyhow, is consistent with ABC’s official farewell statement: “For the past four years, Meghan McCain has brought her fierce determination and vast political knowledge and experience to The View. She recently came to us with her decision to depart the show at the end of this season, a difficult choice that she made for her and her family that we respect and understand. We wish the best for Meghan as she plans her next chapter and thank her for the passion and unique voice that she shared with us and our viewers each day.”
—With additional reporting from Lachlan Cartwright.