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It's hard to assess Meghan McCain's tenure on "The View." On the one hand, she fought relentlessly with her co-hosts as the show's lone conservative for most of her run. On the other hand, politically tinged smackdowns and heated debates are exactly what "The View" has always thrived on.
And McCain has sent mixed messages. When she announced her planned departure in July to spend more time with her family, she called her co-hosts "strong, brilliant, intelligent and incredible broadcasters," and the nearly four years she worked with them "one of the hands-down greatest, most exhilarating, wonderful privileges of my entire life."
But in a new audiobook released Thursday - "Bad Republican" - McCain says the ABC show's work environment was "toxic" and contends that clashes with left-leaning colleagues such as Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar were not playacting - they really were as rancorous as they seemed on television. The tension and animosity between her and her fellow panelists that radiated off the screen was apparently genuine, and for McCain, deeply unpleasant.
"There's stuff that happens on 'The View' that shouldn't be allowed," she writes, describing Goldberg's "open disdain" for her.
While she says she embraced the lonely role of "the villain" by serving as "the Republican on a liberal show," McCain says that she was particularly hurt when she returned to work after maternity leave in January and Behar told her on air she hadn't been missed. "I felt like I'd been slapped," McCain writes. She cried during the following commercial break, vomited and was "embarrassed and shaking."
She denies, however, that she hates Behar. "From the beginning, I always respected her," she writes. "And she often hugged me and told me she was glad I was there."
McCain also describes herself as a victim of "media abuse" and unfair coverage, pointing to a steady stream of articles during her tenure that included barbs about her attributed to anonymous sources. "Think of all the famously combative male TV anchors on shows with far smaller ratings and much lower profiles," she writes. "If they raise their voices, they're respected as passionate and serious. If I push for my ideas, I'm a princess menacing everyone with snow monsters. (...) The constant media slams were so emotionally and mentally taxing that I thought about leaving many times during those first months."
She accused ABC of using "scare tactics" by fomenting a media narrative about clashes and tensions, hoping that viewers would tune in "to see if this is the day that someone storms off the set forever."
A spokeswoman for the show, however, pushed back on her assertions. "For 25 years, 'The View' has been a platform on air and behind the scenes for strong women," she said. "Live television and different perspectives can often lead to surprising moments, but the team is collaborative and supportive - focused on delivering an informative daily talk show to our loyal viewers." (A network source also said that all of McCain's complaints were addressed during her tenure on the show.)
McCain's memoir and promotional appearances this week have prompted questions about her television future, on top of her gig as a columnist for the Daily Mail.
Her next stop could be the network she worked for between 2015 and 2017, the Fox News Channel. She says in the book that her decision to leave Fox was driven by her desire to tend to her father, then-Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Much of her press for the audiobook has included advocacy for more progressive parental leave policies, and she praises Fox's plan. "For all its flaws, Fox is a family company," she writes.
When she announced plans to leave "The View" in July, a Fox News spokesperson said, "Meghan McCain is a star and we are always interested in exceptional talent." Network representatives did not respond when asked this week whether the network has had any formal talks with McCain.
But it was notable that McCain chose Sean Hannity's show on Fox News for her first television interview on Tuesday. On the show, she inveighed against "the liberal media" and "the radical left," the latter being one of Hannity's go-to phrases. "Being a conservative woman in mainstream media is deeply threatening," she said.
She praised her "sisterhood" of former colleagues at Fox. "I probably would not have survived emotionally the past five years of my life, between my dad's passing and cancer, and everything that I speak about in my memoir happening at 'The View' and other things in personal life, if it weren't for the women I met at Fox News." She has also praised anchor Harris Faulkner as a mentor. And McCain's husband, Ben Domenech, recently joined the network as a paid contributor.
McCain, however, might not enjoy working with one specific Fox personality, Saturday night host Jeanine Pirro. Pirro made a historically contentious appearance on "The View" in 2018. After her segment ended, McCain claims in her book that Pirro cursed out the panelists and then threw her microphone, hitting McCain in the chest.
The support for former president Donald Trump among the network's top opinion hosts could also pose a challenge if he runs for president again in 2024. Trump routinely insulted John McCain before and after his death, and his daughter says in the book that "it felt like too much of a conflict to work for a place that was pro-Trump even as Trump was obsessively taunting my sick father."
Trump was at it again amid the book release. In a statement released Friday, he called McCain a "lowlife" and her father a Republican in name only.
McCain thanked Trump for the book publicity.