In the new audio memoir “Bad Republican,” Meghan McCain talks about the last four years of her life as the conservative co-host on “The View,” as well as dealing with the death of her father — Arizona Sen. John McCain. In the exclusive excerpt below, McCain writes about the turning point with Joy Behar last January that convinced her it was time to leave “The View.” “Bad Republican” is available on Audible on Oct. 21. Read Variety‘s interview with McCain about the new book.
On July 1, 2021, I announced live on air that I was leaving “The View” after four years. My co-hosts learned about my decision that morning, and the shock registered on their faces. I’d been talking to ABC’s higher-ups for weeks about wanting to leave. Up until the week before, they were trying to convince me to stay and finish out the two years left on my contract. I told them it was too late — I had to get out.
More from Variety
I didn’t get much sleep the night before the announcement. I kept going over the things I’d be saying on the show the next morning — and also, the things I would not be saying. I would be talking about what an incredible opportunity being on the show was, how much respect I had for my co-hosts, and how much I’d learned from being there. But I would not mention that the way I’d been treated on the show as the resident conservative, particularly upon my return from maternity leave, had made it impossible for me to stay.
This is the part you all want to know about, right? You want all the details about what happens when the cameras aren’t on at “The View.” I’m not going to dish on every piece of drama that I witnessed. I had a lot of good memories on the show, and it was a privilege to be part of such an iconic piece of TV history. And yes, I know that most jobs in TV are stressful, being in a pressure-cooker environment, and that’s to be expected.
But there’s stuff that happens on “The View” that shouldn’t be allowed. For whatever reason, there’s a deep level of misogyny about the way “The View” is covered and written about in the media, where tabloids are always writing about the co-hosts hating each other backstage. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because the atmosphere of “The View” breeds drama: producers can’t control hosts, manage conflict or control leaking. My take on the show is that working at “The View” brings out the worst in people. I believe that all the women and the staff are working under conditions where the culture is so fucked up, it feels like quicksand.
I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because there’s no high-level oversight of the show from the network. ABC won’t lay down the law when it comes to conduct at “The View.” We’re like the network’s crazy cousin. HR reports seem to fall on deaf ears, starting from years before I worked there. And as a result, people — both on camera and off — feel empowered to act however they like, and do whatever they want. In my four years there, I was the target of plenty of shade — too much to even begin to recount — and then I also experienced more toxic, direct and purposeful hostility.
When I first joined “The View” in 2017, I felt a connection to Whoopi. She had made a promise to my father that she would look after me, and she kept her word for the first two years that I was on the show. The thing about Whoopi, though, is that she yields so much power in culture and television, and once she turns on you, it can create unfathomable tension at the table. I found her open disdain for me more and more difficult to manage as the years went on and it became more frequent. Occasionally, if the show’s political discourse veered into territory that she found disagreeable, Whoopi would cut me off, sometimes harshly. Once, in the middle of a heated debate on live TV, Whoopi singled me out and said, “Girl, please stop talking right now.” It instantly trended on Twitter. And it really hurt. Another time she answered something I said by blurting out “O.K.” in a tone that declared she was both baffled and disgusted by what I had just said. This reaction also went viral and left a scar on our relationship. Day after day, week after week, these things take a toll.
You can’t imagine how it messes with your self-esteem working in an environment where the worst thing you can be in the world is a Republican during the Trump years. As the country got worse under Trump, the treatment from Whoopi, Joy and some of the staff grew meaner and less forgiving. It was as if I had become an avatar for everything they hated about the president. It felt like the co-hosts and staff only knew one Republican — me — and took out all their anger on me, even though I didn’t even vote for Trump.
It was hard for me to understand. And I couldn’t explain it, because Whoopi and Joy saw front and center the emotional trauma that I experienced from President Trump’s attacks on my family. There was more than one occasion when I had to go on live TV and address the next disgusting thing Trump was saying about my father, as my dad was sick.
After my dad died, I heard Joy had told others at “The View” that she couldn’t understand how I could still defend Republicans after everything Trump had done to me. Why was that something she had to worry about? I could separate the two. I could separate Trump from being a Republican. And by the way, that was my job on the show. It’s also how the great political analysts survive the ups and downs of each administration. “The View” wouldn’t have had the ratings that it did during my four years if I was like the conservative co-hosts who succeeded Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Those women agreed with everyone and nodded politely. The women who once voted Republican and came to find nothing except the ability to trash the party and its members at every possible opportunity.
Courtesy of Audible
During my time on “The View,” I felt like I was being often being punished and singled out for being a conservative. I’d hear a lot of complaints that the staff, including the other co-hosts and producers, had problems with my “personality.” Until I got pregnant, I could handle it and manage it. No matter how hard the days were, I accepted the tradeoff. I was on the most watched TV show on daytime TV with a platform to speak to — and for — millions of women in this country. This was the deal with the devil I knowingly made.
What changed was how I was treated after I had a baby. After I gave birth to Liberty, I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety. For those of you who don’t know what that is, postpartum anxiety is a cousin to postpartum depression that affects about 10 percent of new moms, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The telltale signs are excessive worrying, racing thoughts and feelings of dread. Where it turns from being different from normal new mom worries is the point at which it becomes irrational. I sadly had this in spades. I was paranoid that someone was going to kidnap Liberty to the point that I considered hiring armed bodyguards outside our house. I was afraid people wanted to kill her, or steal her or hurt her in some way. Every night, when she went to sleep, I would go in and check on her to make sure she was still breathing and still in her crib. As I was dealing with my own emotions, I couldn’t also navigate the idea that I was hated and felt hated at a toxic work environment. The second that feeling set in, it started to snowball into me thinking that everyone hated me. And because of that, I was worried even more that someone would steal or kidnap my child — as a way of hurting me. It wasn’t rational; I know that. But it was the medical diagnosis I was going through.
When I was getting ready to return to work, I told my producers that it was going to be rough for me. I didn’t ask for special treatment, but I didn’t expect the attacks to start either. When other women come back from maternity leave on “The View,” they are welcomed with confetti and baby presents. Also I had been gone for three months and I had assumed they had missed seeing me. I was wrong.
On my second day back, as I was still getting my sea legs back and adjusting to my new schedule and life between breast-pumping and researching for my hot topics, Joy and I began squabbling a bit about the state of the Democratic Party on air. To make light of things and to ease the tension, I said, “Joy, you missed me so much when I was on maternity leave! You missed fighting with me!”
“I did not,” Joy said. “I did not miss you. Zero.”
Nothing anyone has ever said to me on camera since I have been giving interviews since I was 22 years old ever hit this hard. I felt like I’d been slapped. She yelled out at me sharp and intensely and I believed her. Now, I know I’m not always a perfect angel, but I would never speak to any woman that way who had just returned after giving birth. There are some things in life and some moments of time in life which are sacred. There are also times in life where you aren’t as strong as you usually are.
“That’s so nasty,” I said, unable to hide my shock. “That’s so rude.”
Until that moment, it hadn’t even occurred to me that Joy hadn’t missed me. She’d texted me to ask to see a baby picture of Liberty, and she’d seemed happy for me. We’d chatted in a friendly way. I believed that, despite all our differences, deep down, we had a mutual understanding of respect for each other.
When we broke for commercial, I burst into tears. Not just like tearing up, uncontrollable sobbing. I was super hormonal and deeply hurt.
“If you guys didn’t want me to come back, I wouldn’t have come back!” I said to the producer in my earpiece. I told him he might need to pull my camera away for a minute because I wasn’t sure if I could get myself together in time to go back to interviewing people. I felt my boobs begin to leak from lactation. I was embarrassed and shaking. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my body. I didn’t want millions of viewers to see that.
After sobbing for what felt like an eternity, I wiped my face, took deep breaths, and double-checked that my nipples were not in camera range. I tried to smile and focus as the show resumed.
That experience of crying and leaking and trying to pull it together in seconds so I could go back on-air with women who appeared to hate me was an intensely heartbreaking experience. I can’t explain it further other than I felt like in that moment I took a look at my life outside of myself and I thought clearly — this shit isn’t worth this. Nothing in life is worth this. I made it through the rest of the show and, afterward, I went into my office. Because of COVID, I taped the show in an almost empty ABC bureau office where it was just me and my makeup artist and our sound lady. They are lovely people, and we got along well, but I rushed down stairs, closed my door, threw up in the garbage can and I finished the crying session I’d had to interrupt before. She’d triggered my postpartum anxiety and now I was on a roller coaster that I couldn’t stop. While I wept, I no longer felt safe working at “The View.” It is one of the most singular feelings of loneliness and anguish I have felt in my entire life. It was a perfect storm of hormones, postpartum anxiety and a lot of demons on “The View” coming out to bite me.
Later, I asked my executive producer for an apology from Joy. She had humiliated me live on air and an apology from her didn’t seem like a lot to ask. I was told I would not be getting one and we all just needed to move on. I never talked to Joy one on one again after that day.
Call me naïve, but when I came back to work after having a baby, I expected to be treated with respect. It had taken me so long to get healthy again. I’d had postpartum preeclampsia in the hospital, which is when you have scarily high blood pressure after giving birth. I couldn’t breathe, I could barely stand up. I needed my husband and my sister-in-law to help me eat and walk. It was mortifying. When I took Liberty to her first pediatrician appointment, the doctor gave me a form to fill out about how I was coping. I failed it. I was shocked. The pediatrician pulled me aside and told me I needed to talk to my OBGYN right away. My OBGYN prescribed me Zoloft for my anxiety and I started going to therapy.
“The View” is billed as being honest and open. It’s billed as an arena for women to share and discuss their views on politics and the most important topics of the day — an arena historically occupied by men. A space where women support — and respectfully challenge — each other. But the truth is that the environment of the show is toxic. Here I was, thinking that I had been through so much with these women. Together, we had helped bring the show back from the dead. We won an Emmy. We became America’s “most watched daytime talk show.” We were on the covers of magazines. After giving birth, I didn’t feel like myself. I felt extremely vulnerable. Joy seemed to smell that vulnerability like a shark smells blood in the water, and she took after it. Why was this worth it to her? I will never know. But, so much for working moms looking out for each other.
I realize “The View” is a TV show. I know what I signed up for. I’m not some delicate flower. “The View” has a long, storied history that has been well documented. But up until the day I returned to work, I’d been in quarantine and completely isolated with a new baby. Covid pregnancy and my covid fourth trimester was challenging, isolating, scary, intense and liberating. When it was time to go back to work, I understood why women might not have children if they want to focus on their career. I was made to feel that my having a baby had inconvenienced everyone and that becoming a mother had made me weak. This beautiful thing that had happened in my life had turned into a shitty tabloid drama. And it was a shitty tabloid drama — that moment blasted across the internet and television media like a comet. Ultimately it proved too difficult for me to forgive or move on from. Especially because I was told I wouldn’t be getting an apology. I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth anymore to try with any of them anymore. I thought I was part of a show where women can have the kinds of conversations that society doesn’t generally make space for women to have. But, for me, “The View” didn’t feel like a pro-women show. Soon after I returned, it hit me: I didn’t want to be a part of that, for myself, for my daughter and for women everywhere.
In the days after my return on “The View,” my postpartum anxiety got worse.
I became even more worried someone would try to hurt Liberty to punish me.
I had a hard time letting anyone else hold her but me.
I would have panic attacks taking her in a stroller because I was afraid someone would push me down and run off with her.
My husband Ben was very honest with my doctor and said, “She’s having a hard time, and it’s more than depression.” Two of my closest friends, Clay and Josh, told me I’d never seemed sadder or more anxious in all the years they’d known me. I know that many of you noticed it too. I would hear from viewers saying that I looked so sad on “The View” in the winter of 2021.
I had been unhappy at “The View” for a long time. My unhappiness was like this giant wave that had been building and building and finally crashed after I returned from leave. I don’t think most people understand how all-consuming the show is. It’s not like being a news host or a talking head. You’re expected to share every detail of your life, and live in this quasi-reality TV existence, where you are constantly reacting to your TV family that may or may not hate you. Sometimes I would go home and start relaxing and unwinding and just catching my breath and the show’s publicist would call me and say, “There’s an article about you on Page Six or TMZ saying you’re Axl Rose and you set the studio on fire and everybody hates you, and you’re a monster and nobody wants you here.”
You can shrug it off for a while — and I did — but at a certain point it starts to cause harm. It got to the point where I would arrive at the studio, get in the elevator alone, walk as fast as I could to my dressing room, and shut the door. I was so paranoid that any interaction I had could be sold to the press or become fodder on Twitter. Conversations could be taken out of context and used against me. I remember when I got there, one of the first stories was that I’d had a psychotic break down and was yelling about being the only Republican on the show. A version of that did happen, but not the way it was reported. Something serious happened – I can’t remember what – and I did yell that I was the only Republican on the show. But there was no “psychotic break down.” One of the oldest tricks in the book is calling women crazy. If you have an emotional reaction to something mean they’ve done, they turn around and say, “She’s so crazy. Look at her. What an unhinged lunatic!” There’s no way to win because you’re made to feel crazy and then you start going crazy. And then when you go crazy, they say, “She’s always been a basket case. Look at her! What a maniac.” It wasn’t like that for other co-hosts. They could have their emotions. They could get fired up about what they believed in. But I couldn’t. I have endless stories about my colleagues’ behavior on set and off. It’s an emotional show and sometimes what happens backstage isn’t pretty. But for some reason, it was always my stuff that leaked.
It started to feel very isolating.
Look, it’s not all bad. I’ll be attached to it for the rest of my life, for better or worse. I’m not mad about what happened to me. Other hosts who’ve left are like, “Fuck ‘The View.’” I don’t feel that way. I’m not bitter or angry. I want change. The idea of show dedicated to women having conversations that society reserves for men is important and necessary in our culture. But there are some things about the show that feel stuck in 1997 when “The View” first went on air. In this era of dismantling toxic work environments and refusing to accept the poor treatment of employees, how is “The View” still immune?
My experiences at “The View” made me think about how women are treated in the workplace, period. I want ABC to change. But I want change in America too, starting with giving pregnant women paid maternity leave. Corporations should not be allowed to say, “We support women, blah blah blah, but if you have a baby, we’re not going to support you.” These companies spend millions of dollars a year trying to convince consumers of their high moral values, but how many of them actually walk the talk? It needs to change.
I believe that ABC News should offer paid family leave to all employees.
I realize, too, that not all conservatives believe in paid family leave. This is a problem. Conservatives are supposed to be so pro-family, but too often their policies stop short of protecting and supporting women. I was always for paid family leave, but now I see it as my issue. This is a call to arms. I’m hopeful that being open and vulnerable with my story will help. Of course, I can’t imagine what it’s like for women who are less privileged than I am, women who work minimum wage jobs, and single mothers struggling to make ends meet. But I do know how hard it was for me. And I’m sure it’s much, much more difficult for them. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through that period of time in my life without the support from my friends and family and the resources with the amazing doctors and specialists who helped me come out the other side. Every woman should have the same access and resources I did in one of the most vulnerable and difficult times in a woman’s life. I feel like we are collectively failing new moms and women in general in this country.
The morning I announced that I was quitting “The View,” I was exhausted because I didn’t sleep at all the night before. I was so distracted leaving the house that I forgot my on-air clothes and my coffee. When I realized I didn’t have my coffee, I asked my Uber driver to stop so I could run into a coffee shop to get some. The place we pulled up to was wasn’t a place I had gone before.
I had been thinking about how my father had told me to take the job at “The View.” I don’t think he was wrong, but I think he would have wanted me to go now. I helped the show win an Emmy. I buried him and showed up to work right after. I interviewed Donald Trump, Jr., even though he’d attacked my family. I did everything that was asked and put my mental and emotional wellbeing aside for it.
When my dad died, it was a wake-up call about how little time we have. I felt like I didn’t listen to that wake up call, and then COVID happened, and now I feel like I am listening to it. Since COVID, a lot of people, but especially people my age, are reassessing what they want and what they consider worthwhile. My generation would rather make less money and create quality work, or do something they love, or work with people they respect. I never thought I was that person. But when I went back to the show, I felt like I was being disingenuous. I thought of the press I would have to do next season, the junkets. It’s all about women supporting women. I didn’t want to lie anymore. I couldn’t. I couldn’t put on the happy face after what I went through. Unlike a lot of women my age with little kids, I can afford to leave a toxic workplace. This is the great luxury of my life — being able to get up and leave when I have had enough. I know that makes me extremely privileged. I feel heartsick for all women who feel trapped in places they can’t afford to leave.
I was really mad and upset at myself for not being stronger when I got back to work. I felt as if I had failed. I thought to myself, This is why people don’t have children. Now when I see any woman who’s pregnant or postpartum, all I want to say is, “What do you need? How can I help you?” I never want to work for anyone again who doesn’t look out for new mothers.
As I walked into the unfamiliar coffee shop on Capitol Hill, I heard the ABBA song “Take a Chance on Me” playing really loud. The people behind the counter were dancing to the song, smiling and laughing. ABBA was one of my dad’s favorite bands. It was a sign: I was making the right decision.
Best of Variety