ABC’s female-focused talkfest The View—whose fractious interpersonal relationships on and off the air have provided endless fodder for tabloid-ready gossip over the past two decades—seems poised to claim yet another casualty.
The show’s resident conservative Republican, Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Arizona Senator John McCain, is seriously considering calling it quits and not accepting ABC’s offer to return for The View’s 23rd season next September.
If this came to pass, it would be after two testy years of strident on-camera battles with her liberal-Democrat fellow panelists, Joy Behar and Sunny Hostin, and damaging leaks concerning her allegedly abusive and boorish backstage behavior.
According to sources close to the 34-year-old McCain, who is said to make something under a million dollars a year on the highly rated daytime program, she is emotionally drained, angry, and isolated—“feeling like a caged animal,” said one McCain intimate—amid a spate of negative publicity.
Much of this has appeared on the popular website of the Daily Mail that has portrayed her as entitled, unreasonable, “manic,” and self-obsessed—a “petulant child,” given to “crying fits” when she’s roasted on social media.
She feels “so exhausted and defeated,” said a knowledgeable source, after her two seasons of discontent.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s not worth the emotional toll every week,” said a McCain pal, who asked not to be further identified. “If she doesn’t stay at The View, she will find other work.”
McCain, who continues to grieve over her famous father’s August 2018 death from brain cancer but has been helped by therapy, declined an interview request from The Daily Beast, where she spent nearly four years as a regular columnist until late 2012.
“We don’t want people to attack Meghan. We’re happy to have Meghan there,” Hilary Estey McLoughlin, the show’s senior executive producer, told The Daily Beast. “I think she does want to be there. I think she wants to be on the show. She realizes it’s a very good platform for her and we love having her there. I feel like she will come back.”
However, as McLoughlin acknowledged, “these stories don’t seem to go away.”
“What happens with Meghan is that because she’s so passionate about what she’s talking about, and she feels very strongly that she’s carrying this mantle for the conservative perspective, and what she wants to talk about is so important to her, I think that’s the part that’s the most draining for her,” McLoughlin said.
Like her father, a salty-tongued former Navy pilot who was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War and spent five years as a prisoner under torture, McCain is unusually self-aware, knows she comes on too strong for many people and occasionally offends them (although she is quick to apologize in private for missteps).
Yet even when she knows it would help her, she seldom practices tact and diplomacy. She “has a mouth like a trucker,” said a person familiar with McCain’s M.O. She “swears a lot.” She’s “got to stop, because it keeps impacting her life.”
Her father “raised her like a guy,” this person said, adding that she “feels different in every way a person can feel different [at The View]—everything from politically to just socially to where she’s from.”
In contrast to many of her colleagues, who spend weekends in the Hamptons, McCain likes to spend her time off at home in Arizona, “hanging out in the creek and doing Jell-O shots and shooting guns,” this person said.
In early May, when her husband, right-wing publisher and editor Ben Domenech, took to Twitter to hurl obscene and homophobic insults at Seth Meyers—after the former Saturday Night Live comic pressed McCain, a guest on his NBC late-night show, over her “dangerous” comments about Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar’s alleged anti-Semitism—she was hardly thrilled.
Her husband’s social-media behavior created more unwelcome heat and embarrassment for McCain, a high-profile supporter of LGBTQ causes.
With the passage of time, however, she’s much more appreciative of Domenech’s attempt at gallantry, said this person, who added that they were probably attracted to each other, in part, due to their common traits as loud-mouthed, impassioned “Alphas.”
Sadly, they got engaged to be married at the Mayo Clinic as her father was dying of glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. By the day of the wedding in November 2017, John McCain was too weak and ill to walk her down the aisle.
Compared to others who have held The View’s “conservative” seat over the past 22 years, notably Survivor alum Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Full House actress Candace Cameron Bure, “Meghan is bolder and more fearless in what she’s willing to say and how she challenges people,” McLoughlin said. “I think she sometimes feels isolated because she’s carrying this mantle and she takes it very personally. It’s a hard job. It’s the hardest job on the show, for sure.”
Meanwhile, Co-Executive Producer Candi Carter, an Oprah alum who presides in the View’s control room while her counterpart Brian Teta supervises the show from the studio audience, told The Daily Beast: “What is so amazing about having Meghan on the show is she literally has inside-knowledge sources, and she grew up in the world of politics, and that has been such an asset to our show.”
The View was recently dubbed “The Most Important Political TV Show in America” by a New York Times Magazine cover story.
As for the flood of leaks, “Those leaks 100 percent undermine our ability to put on a show every day,” Carter said. “It’s really difficult… Trust me, nobody is happy about the fact that there are leaks.”
Members of McCain’s inner circle are constantly speculating on the source of leaks that have cast her as a backstage villain, and McCain—who is distrustful of many of her View coworkers—has occasionally gone over McLoughlin’s head to such ABC News executives as Senior Vice President Barbara Fedida to complain about perceived mistreatment.
In an incident three months ago, McCain—an obsessive follower of social media—was incensed when she noticed that longtime View makeup artist Karen Dupiche had “liked” an anti-Meghan video montage posted on Twitter by liberal CNN commentator Angela Rye.
The 50-second montage begins with a widely publicized clip of McCain talking over her View co-host Joy Behar, who pleads “Let me just finish” during a debate on immigration, and McCain snapping imperiously: “Part of your job is to listen to me.”
It continues with a clip of Maya Angelou intoning “You have no license!” and one of View moderator Whoopi Goldberg (in her Oscar-winning role from the 1990 hit Ghost) warning, “You in danger, girl!”
Then comes the image of two high-school girls fighting violently in a cafeteria scuffle; then Meryl Streep telling Goldie Hawn—in the 1992 film Death Becomes Her—“You brought this on yourself!” before shooting her; then a woman expressing the wish to “pimp-slap her”; and so on and so forth.
Several sources told The Daily Beast that McCain asked that Dupiche be fired—an assertion denied by a member of McCain’s inner circle. “She doesn’t have that power,” this person said. According to people familiar with the incident, McCain ultimately received a text message of apology from Dupiche after the makeup artist was spoken to by higher-ups. (Dupiche didn’t respond to a request for comment sent via her professional website.)
It also didn’t go unnoticed by Team McCain, however, that Sunny Hostin began following cartoonist Eli Valley on Twitter shortly after he posted a grotesque caricature of a cross-wearing Meghan in March lampooning her supposedly hypocritical support for the Jewish people and state of Israel. McCain herself tweeted at Valley: “This is one of the most anti-semitic things I’ve ever seen. Also, this reveals so much more about you than it does me...”
The 50-year-old Hostin, a former Justice Department lawyer and federal sex-crimes prosecutor who also works as a legal analyst for ABC News, clashes regularly with McCain on the air, and members of Team McCain speculate that Hostin, who keeps her cool on camera, has been a source of some of the negative publicity—though not directly. (Indeed, while Hostin declined an interview request, two members of her inner circle, responding to emails sent to Hostin from The Daily Beast, shared unflattering comments about McCain.)
A close friend of McCain’s, who asked not to be further identified, recounted that Hostin spoke to her at two different social occasions—a book party and an engagement party—about McCain’s alleged antisocial behavior at The View.
“Knowing how close I am to Meghan, she starts talking shit about Meghan to me,” this person said, adding that she promptly relayed Hostin’s comments to McCain. “She said ‘Meghan’s not doing well,’ and then she shakes her head. And she’s, like, feigning concern. ‘She doesn’t talk to anyone… She can’t handle the pressure… She’s condescending about her grieving for her father… Meghan’s not handling this well.’”
Responding to this account, as well as to Team McCain’s suspicion that Hostin is one of the leakers, Hostin’s personal publicist emailed: “Sunny and Meghan are colleagues. Sunny says what she needs to say on The View and refuses to take part in gossip. She declines the invitation to be dragged into the mud. As a former federal prosecutor and an Emmy-winning journalist, it’s beneath her.”
The airing of dirty laundry, of course, is nothing new for The View, whose backstage contretemps—surrounding show creator Barbara Walters’ profanity-laced conflicts with Rosie O’Donnell (the profanity courtesy of O’Donnell); O’Donnell’s battles with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Donald Trump, and Whoopi Goldberg; and Star Jones’ battles with everyone—have provided enough juicy anecdotes for countless gossip items as well as for a bestselling book, former Daily Beast and Newsweek reporter Ramin Setoodeh’s Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of “The View.”
“I certainly don’t think it’s someone on our show. I don’t think it’s one of the hosts,” McLoughlin said about the cascade of damaging stories. “I don’t think that someone who is working there today is doing this… I don’t think Sunny is the leak. I don’t. I don’t think anyone who is working on the show could be that overtly doing something that’s potentially problematic for their own careers.
McLoughlin added: “You would have to be pretty much willing to not have the job anymore to do that, and I don’t think anyone on the show would want that to happen to themselves.”
The London-based Daily Mail, which boasts a massive New York bureau of nearly 200 employees, began targeting Meghan McCain soon after she joined The View—from Fox News’ midday show Outnumbered—in October 2017.
The month after McCain arrived, the Mail reported that her View colleagues had nicknamed her “Elsa” from from the Disney movie Frozen due to her “cold and distant demeanor.”
After that, the leaks quickly became an unstoppable torrent. Recent Daily Mail exclusives—apparently based on interviews with backstage “insiders”—have claimed that longtime View moderator Whoopi Goldberg is “at her breaking point with Meghan”; and that McCain angrily called Co-Executive Producer Brian Teta a “motherfucker” during a commercial break within earshot of the studio audience.
In an interview, Teta called the Daily Mail account—which quoted McCain as screaming at Teta, “You motherf***er, how could you let this happen to me?” after she misidentified one lawyer for another during a Hot Topics segment last week—as inaccurate.
Teta—who, virtually alone among The View’s producers, enjoys a close and trusting relationship with McCain—confirmed a witness’ account that McCain uttered the ill-advised epithet during a bantering discussion of an upcoming celebrity-guest segment that she didn’t feel like doing.
“Your opinion doesn’t matter,” Teta quipped.
Attempting a joke, McCain retorted, “Then you’re going to have a mutiny on your hands, motherfucker.”
Teta promptly scolded McCain that she couldn’t speak that way in front of the studio audience—and a chastened McCain immediately apologized, not once but several times over ensuing days.
“It wasn’t done out of genuine anger,” Teta told The Daily Beast. “In her mind, it was playful banter… To her credit, she said ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, I was just playing with you.’”
Teta also said that, contrary to the Daily Mail’s report, nobody from HR was involved.
The day after, during a commercial break, Goldberg got a laugh by repeating the bad word as news of McCain’s gaffe rocketed through cyberspace. (Despite stories to the contrary, Goldberg, a friend of McCain’s dad, has a friendly relationship with her—as evidenced by her habit of calling her “baby” on the air.)
McCain’s pals are also at pains to knock down rumors of acrimony with Joy Behar—especially the Daily Mail’s recent claim that “things are unraveling behind the scenes… in large part due to bad blood between McCain and Behar” after McCain addressed the 76-year-old standup comic as “bitch” on the air.
“I’m the sacrificial Republican every day,” McCain complained during a heated discussion of President Donald Trump’s kickoff campaign rally last month.
“Awww,” Behar retorted mockingly.
“Don’t feel bad for me, bitch. I’m paid to do this. OK?” McCain fired back.
The two frequently address each other in their private text messages as “bitch” as a term of affection, a McCain intimate said. Behar, for one, told The Daily Beast that the reports of personal animosity are inaccurate.
“We get along fine,” Behar said about her relationship with McCain. “We both like to fight in a certain way, and we like to argue. We’ve had big fights over the last couple of years on the air, but basically she’s very strong in her position, and I’m very strong in my position, and we fight, we argue. So what? That’s what makes the show interesting, I think. People write about us as if we hate each other, and we really don’t. I don’t have a problem with her.”
Behar added: “I hate to tell you that because it’s kind of fun to write about. But that’s the truth.”
McCain was especially upset, said a knowledgeable source, by a recent Daily Mail story that suggested she was faking illness when she took two sick days off the show in order to avoid talking on-air about a federal ethics investigation of her father-in-law, an Interior Department official.
McCain was actually getting medical treatment during her time off, knowledgeable sources said.
The portrayal of McCain as “a raving lunatic,” as one intimate put it, is at odds with the experience of longtime friends such as fellow View panelist Abby Huntsman and Firing Line host Margaret Hoover (wife of former Daily Beast Editor in Chief John Avlon).
“Meghan has been a friend for a decade,” Hoover emailed. “She is definitely her father’s daughter—the good and the bad. She has his character and backbone. Like him, she’s a passionate personality who speaks her mind and is bullshit-intolerant.”
Hoover added: “She’s shown a great deal of grace under pressure in a difficult time, and the haters should keep that in mind.”
McCain seems more grounded, and less strident, when fellow Fox News alum and close friend Huntsman—who joined The View as a co-host this season—is at the table. Whenever Huntsman is absent, as she has been in recent weeks on maternity leave after delivering twins, McCain has appeared more edgy on the air.
They are both daughters of wealthy families and prominent Republican politicians; Jon Huntsman, the son of a chemical industry billionaire, is former governor of Utah, former U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama, and President Trump’s current ambassador to the Russian Federation.
“We’re as different as two people can possibly be, and I think people see that on and off-camera, and we laugh about it,” the more politically moderate and soft-spoken Huntsman told The Daily Beast. “We always say I’m the good cop and she’s the bad cop. It works, but we handle every situation completely differently. There are those moments when Meghan will say, ‘How are you so patient with me, and how are you still my friend?’ and first of all I love her to death.”
Huntsman added: “There are moments when she can get worked up, and there are moments when she’s the sweetest, most wonderful person in the world… With Meghan, I know how to navigate it. I know not to fire back at certain times, you know, let it breathe for a day and then we’ll come back. Because we’ve had our moments where we’ve had to talk things through. It’s hard going from being great friends to working on one of the most difficult television shows.”
Huntsman continued: “I think you only survive in this crazy business when you have people you can trust. And I think that what is frustrating for her, on the show, is that she doesn’t have that with a lot of people there.”