"I hope it's in my obituary that I was the first Republican since Elisabeth Hasselbeck to survive more than one season on The View," Meghan McCain told Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View author Ramin Satoodeh. "It's one of my proudest moments. I thought I was getting fired for a long time."
But will she survive more than two?
On a show that has become famous for its turnover, perhaps no one in recent years, and in such a short amount of time, has been the subject of so many angst-behind-the-scenes rumors—most of them shot down as so much negative hearsay or a case of reading too much into the onscreen banter that can overheat in the time it takes for Whoopi Goldberg to sip her beverage.
Which would be tough on anybody, but McCain—who was used to living a somewhat public life as the daughter of Sen. John McCain and a Fox News commentator but who obviously reached a new level of fame when she joined The View—has been dealing with more than the usual odd-woman-out angst, magnified all the more by social media.
So, she's understandably said to be exhausted and not sure what her next move is going to be.
"The co-hosts and The View have had an incredible season and we expect them all back for an epic year ahead," a spokesperson for the enduring ABC morning show told E! News this past week.
So contrary to her earlier fears, and the fact that so many co-hosts of all political stripes who've come before have been quietly (or not) shown the door after one or two seasons, The View has insisted that McCain is welcome back.
It's whether she wants to go back, amid all the scrutiny and after suffering the toughest loss of her life when her father died last August, that is the real question.
It was John McCain who encouraged his daughter to accept the job in the first place, the veteran Republican senator from Arizona and former presidential candidate having been a guest on the show several times.
Meghan had also been a guest many times over since she was in her early 20s and had guest-hosted around a dozen times. According to Ladies Who Punch, Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell, whose onscreen sparring with Hasselbeck is the stuff of morning-TV legend, both thought as early as 2016 that McCain—a staunch conservative and critic of then-candidate Donald Trump—would be great heading into the presidential election that November.
Goldberg and O'Donnell (who wasn't even on the show anymore but was watching closely and offering her 2 cents) were shot down.
"It's fine," McCain remembered thinking that at the time to Setoodeh. "I'll move on with my life." Moreover, she certainly realized that being pretty much the sole conservative on that panel, guests included, day after day was no picnic.
But after Trump won the election and season 20 chugged along, McCain was back in the mix.
At first she said no.
"I didn't want to join, as you know," McCain told Satoodeh (who notes in the book that he's a longtime friend of Meghan's who used to edit her when she wrote a column for The Daily Beast). "I thought it looked like there was so much turnover. It wasn't the iconic show I watched when I was in college. I originally said no when they asked me, and my dad convinced me to do it."
Sen. McCain and Goldberg "had worked together on AIDS research," McCain explained. "When they offered me the job, I called her before I accepted. I asked her if she thought I could do this. It never gets old that she's Whoopi Goldberg."
McCain made her debut as co-host on Oct. 9, 2017, a few weeks after Jedediah Billa abruptly said she was leaving on Sept. 18 after basically one season.
"It didn't feel quite as scary as going into something completely brand new," McCain told E! News after her first day, "but of course there's a lot of attention that's paid to this show." She smiled, as if silently acknowledging the wild press the ladies of The View tend to receive. "And there's a lot of history on this show, but it's still an iconic seat to fill. And like I said, I was such a fan of Elisabeth when I was growing up, so I felt like I couldn't say no."
About her designated role, she said, "This is still a different incarnation of the show, and I think I'm sort of a different incarnation of conservatism, so it's very serendipitous—I know what I'm getting into. I wasn't under any sort of naïve ideas that this wouldn't be a challenge."
She initially joined Goldberg, Joy Behar, Paula Faris, Sarah Haines and Sunny Hostin. True to the show's revolving-door reputation, Faris and Haines left after season 21 and Abby Huntsman joined last fall.
In a devastating blow to Meghan and her whole family, Sen. McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma in the summer of 2017. He was determined to fight and serve in the Senate as long as he could, but the prognosis wasn't good. Meghan even sped up her wedding plans to ensure her dad would be there to give her away, marrying Ben Domenech that November at her family's lodge in Sedona, Ariz.
"John Dickerson from Face the Nation married us, and I want to give a big special shout out to Shooter Jennings…he sang the entire time. I pulled Clay Aiken out of retirement to sing and got my dad cry because he sang a beautiful song for us," the glowing newlywed shared on The View the next week, the panel enjoying a can't-argue-with-that moment.
Meanwhile, McCain's opinion of by then President Trump hadn't become any more favorable, as Trump had continued to publicly lash out at her ailing father, this time mad that Sen. McCain hadn't been willing to vote in favor of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, criticizing his colleagues for the rushed, surreptitious way they had been trying to go about it.
Trump has never gotten over the senator's "no" vote.
A few months later, Meghan joined The View and John McCain took great pleasure in seeing his little girl go national.
"He's so excited, and it's strange, because I was like, 'Don't you hate that show?' and he said, 'but they need a Republican and you'd be great and I love it!'" she shared with E! News his reaction to her getting the gig. "'And it's network television! And it's such an iconic show!'"
"So he's very excited," she assured us. "He tends to sort of be my biggest cheerleader—my parents are my biggest cheerleaders, so they're very excited."
She delivered what can safely be described as a fiery eulogy at his televised funeral, in which her grief, stoicism and devotion to her dad were on full display—and she didn't let the moment pass without getting a thinly veiled dig in at Trump, who after continuing to publicly disparage the senator even when he was gravely ill, did not attend, nor did the first lady.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner showed up, much to Meghan's surprise.
McCain has acknowledged that the rise of Trump may have made her an even better fit for The View than she ever was as a guest host. The enemy of my enemy, after all.
"If Trump wasn't president, I don't think I would be successful here," she told Ramin Setoodeh. "For that reason, I guess I'm grateful that Trump is president. It's just made my job a little easier because I know why it happened."
That being said, she didn't think The View was once again thriving purely because of Trump.
"Everyone is, like, 'Oh, you're popular because of Trump.' I think everyone is more interested in politics," McCain said. Young women are different now than when I was younger. Everyone is involved, civically engaged, and informed. I think that's also why the show is doing so well.
"I think the reason I worked and other Republicans didn't is because I'm the first real Republican that they hired. Yes, I think I'm more of a Republican than Elisabeth is."
(Hasselbeck, who in 2013 was named one of the 25 most influential women in the GOP by the very right-wing Newsmax, left The View that year to go co-host Fox and Friends. She retired from Fox News in 2015.)
"I was born in this environment," McCain clarified. "I don't want to be a Democrat. I think there were a lot of people they hired that are in the mushy middle, or they are republicans who are ashamed of being Republicans—or they are intimidated. Nicolle Wallace changed parties. Candace Cameron was a social conservative. I don't remember the other people who were on here."
(Wallace, now an Independent, was a senior advisor on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. She currently has her own show, Deadline: White House, on MSNBC.)
So, no one needed to be worried that McCain wouldn't make for good TV—presuming that those who religiously watch The View expect a certain level of chumminess and combativeness on a daily basis.
Shared distaste for Trump aside, most of her political views have certainly put her at loggerheads with a few of her fellow hosts, especially Joy Behar, with their verbal jousting sometimes turning into screaming. It's those two who have been the subject of the most pernicious feud rumors—enough to be parodied on Saturday Night Live ("a huge pop cultural honor," Meghan called it) and enough to have to explain a few things to a shocked audience.
"I also enjoy fighting with you and she enjoys fighting with me," McCain explained after one such lively exchange last month with Behar, "so I just want everyone to stop being so precious about our relationship because it's almost 2020 and women can debate on TV in a spirited way without it being personal and I know this is a big shock. We get along backstage. I was just texting you."
Behar agreed, "Even if it gets vicious. I'm very straight in what I believe, and so is she. So we're going to fight."
McCain told Ramin Setoodeh about Behar for his book, which came out in April, "I love sparring with her. We're like boxers; we punch gloves and then we're out."
But even professional boxers can only fight for so long.
Daily Mail TV reported a couple weeks ago that McCain had blown up at executive producer Brian Teta and called him a "motherf--ker" after she made an on-air flub while they were talking about the squalid conditions of the detention centers where children are currently being held along the U.S. border with Mexico, a mistake that required a clarification for legal purposes further in the show. The report claimed that morale was suffering behind the scenes thanks to McCain.
A source told E! News, however, that McCain and Teta talked during the commercial break to prep for the next segment, as per usual, not to rehash the previous one, and that "it wasn't an aggressive moment by any means."
"Meghan has a great relationship with Executive Producer Brian Teta," an ABC spokesperson said about the reported incident. "Their exchange during the commercial break was playful and nothing more. Making something more of it is completely ridiculous."
Teta later told The Daily Beast, "It wasn't done out of genuine anger. 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."
The 22nd season of The View has since come to a close, and the summer intrigue has begun already thanks to a Daily Beast report that quoted a source saying McCain felt "exhausted and defeated" by the show's dynamic, while another friend said, "It's getting to the point where it's not worth the emotional toll every week. If she doesn't stay at The View, she will find other work."
Moreover, people close to McCain told the Daily Beast that Sunny Hostin, who also frequently butts heads with Meghan, had been spreading tales of disquiet on the set. A rep for Hostin told the site that the ladies are colleagues, Sunny says what she feels she needs to say when they're on the air, and she "refuses to take part in gossip."
"She declines the invitation to be dragged into the mud," the rep concluded. "As a former federal prosecutor and an Emmy-winning journalist, it's beneath her."
"I don't think Sunny is the leak," senior executive producer Hilary Estey McLoughlin also told Page Six. "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."
A rep for The View has told us that they hope to have all the hosts back, and a source tells Page Six that McCain is "still in talks and would like to return."
But, "there are some things that need to change. Meghan feels constantly attacked."
Perhaps they just need to hit restart. After her first day, McCain told E! News, "I think this show is very respectful, for the most part, and can continue to be, and that they want to have a different perspective—otherwise, I wouldn't be here right now."
No matter what she decides, her desired epitaph is secure.