On the list of things I care about, daytime television is at the bottom of the list. I believe I’ve watched The View once since it first aired in 1997. Barack Obama was the guest. In that span, I’ve probably tuned in to The Price is Right three or four times. I can’t think of any other non-sports network programming I’ve watched before dinner time.
I also don’t care about Meghan McCain. Not even a little bit. But I decided to read her explanation for why she left The View in July 2021 and I found that I was sympathetic to many of her complaints. The root of the problem is that she had a difficult pregnancy followed by a bout of postpartum anxiety. This left her in a bad headspace when she returned to work and ill-equipped to deal with the hostility of her co-hosts who weren’t exactly in the mood, post-January 6 coup attempt, to humor her role as designated conservative apologist.
The problem is that McCain expends thousands of words in her effort to explain what happened without once mentioning January 6.
That’s probably because her experience was one of personal humiliation and frayed workplace relationships.
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 [Behar] 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.
Knowing all the difficulties McCain was having with postpartum anxiety at the time, it’s easy to see why she was so devastated by this exchange. Even in the best of times, that kind of remark would hurt, especially when delivered on national television. But if we’re being charitable to Joy Behar, she didn’t know what McCain was going through.
McCain evidently doesn’t know what the rest of us have been going through since Trump decided to try to stay in power despite being defeated at the polls.
The problem wasn’t that Behar was too mean or that McCain was too sensitive. The problem was that the format of the show depends on a token Republican Alan Colmes figure to be a foil to a bunch of liberal-minded women. The token can’t be too conservative, but they also can’t be an ex-Republican. But by July 2021, there was no longer a willingness to tolerate people still clinging to the GOP. Behar was reacting to McCain the person, but also to McCain the token Republican.
Behar was short-tempered but it was really about the format of the show not making sense. With McCain absent on maternity leave, this wasn’t something they had to confront. That changed the moment she returned.
McCain finished the show but she wanted an apology. When one was not forthcoming, she realized that she’d be much happier if she quit, so she did.
A lot of what McCain has to say about paid maternity leave and mothers in the workplace strikes me as correct and important. She may have identified some issues with the management and production of The View, although I do not care about any of that.
The really important thing is what McCain completely misses. She certainly understood that she had an assigned role because she notes correctly that the other hosts should have understood that she was only doing her job, and doing it better than some of her immediate predecessors.
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.
Leaving aside that no one ever mistook McCain for “a great political analyst,” what she didn’t get is that there’s nothing left of the GOP to defend. She was right to walk away from the show, but if she’d been able to detach herself a little bit she’d have realized that her assigned role now demanded she play an irredeemable villain. Either you’re for the peaceful transfer of power or you are not. The gray areas are gone.