Primetimer TV Editor Claire Spellberg Lustig writes about The View in her daily column, The View In Review.
Much has changed since Meghan McCain first sauntered onto The View’s stage in October 2017. She was met at the time with a roaring audience, excited co-hosts, and even a “go get ’em” from Joy Behar, but one pandemic, a fraught presidential transition, and dozens of fights with her coworkers later, McCain will be departing with little fanfare as she says a virtual goodbye to the show's cast and crew later this week from the comfort of her home in Washington, D.C.
That said, apart from the operational changes caused by the pandemic, it’s easy to draw a through line from Meghan McCain’s first episode of The View to her last. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that McCain’s first episode as co-host is perfectly representative of her four years in the conservative hot seat.
When McCain joined The View as a permanent co-host on October 9, 2017, she was clear about her intentions. “It’s such an iconic show, and it’s so iconic, specifically, to be sitting in this chair that Elisabeth [Hasselbeck] made so great,” she said as she assumed her position on the right-side of the table. “To be the conservative on this show is something that I take very seriously, and I’m excited to bring a different perspective to the show.” McCain even joked that she and Joy Behar, the most outspoken liberal on the panel, probably aren’t “going to agree on anything,” a statement that ended up ringing true over their many Trump-era fights.
McCain revealed that she wasn’t initially interested in joining the show, but her father, Sen. John McCain, told her that she couldn’t turn down an opportunity to work with Whoopi Goldberg. John McCain was diagnosed that year with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, and she explained that she hopes to “talk about this in real-time” as her father receives treatment. “We are deeply connected. We are deeply close, to the point that I’ve almost been angry we’re so close because I feel everything so deeply right now,” McCain said of “the hero of her life.”
“I had thought that the purpose of my life was political. I had always thought that it was reforming things from the inside [of] the Republican Party,” she continued. “But I actually think now it is helping bring awareness to brain cancer. I think that’s going to be my life’s purpose.”
If there’s one criticism levied at McCain most during her time on The View, it’s her tendency to “My Father” her way through discussions (the “My Father” discourse is so popular that there are dozens of mash-ups on YouTube). I’ve personally never been a fan of this criticism, as it would be incredibly difficult to grieve a parent on live television, and this seemed to be her way of working through those feelings in the immediate aftermath of his death. Still, it’s notable that McCain went on an extended monologue about her father during her first episode, as it’s something that viewers who have stuck with the show during her four-year tenure are intimately familiar with.
Interestingly, McCain’s first episode also featured a series of Hot Topics discussions that wouldn’t have felt out of place in an episode from July 2021. The segment opened with a Hot Topic about Mike Pence walking out of an NFL game because players kneeled during the national anthem (remember that?), but the co-hosts quickly zoomed out to discuss the larger issues of police brutality, civil disobedience, and patriotism. McCain kept things respectful, but she clashed with Behar and Sunny Hostin over the protests. “The American flag and the national anthem mean more to me than just symbolism,” she said. “I’m deeply patriotic.”
McCain’s Day One remarks are eerily similar to her criticism of Gwen Berry, who turned her back to the American flag at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, just one month ago. “For some reason, my relationship with the flag isn't allowed any more. My love of the American flag, my love of the national anthem,” she said on June 29. “I will die for this. I will die on this hill. It is not appropriate or patriotic to go to a foreign country where you're supposed to be representing America and act like it's just about you!”
After a commercial break, the co-hosts discussed the other big news story of the day: a bombshell New York Times report detailing multiple allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein. McCain’s first episode came just four days after the report was published, and while the #MeToo movement had not yet solidified in our cultural consciousness, issues of workplace harassment, consent, and media coverage loomed large over the conversation. Just as she’s done repeatedly over the past four years (and as recently as last week), McCain asked “why the same standard isn’t being set for actors in Hollywood” that worked with Weinstein as was established in the wake of the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. When practically all of her co-hosts corrected her assertion that the media isn’t treating the situations equally — Behar noted that “we were brutal” to Weinstein on Friday — McCain doubled down. “The media is more than happy to dance on the grave of Bill O’Reilly and all the other harassers in conservative media,” she said. “I don’t understand why those same standards aren’t set to Hollywood.”
“Give it a minute!” Behar, Hostin, and Goldberg yelled simultaneously. If only they knew they’ll be repeating the refrain many times over the next four seasons.
As time capsules go, Meghan McCain’s first episode of The View is the gold standard. It has everything, from the co-host’s “I was hired to represent the conservative perspective” reminders to “culture war” hysteria to “Fox News deserves better” monologues. When fans look back on McCain’s four years on The View, these are the things they’ll remember — or the things they’ll wish they could forget.
Meghan McCain's final day on The View is this Friday, August 6, after which the show will begin its summer hiatus. The View is expected to return to the studio this fall for its landmark 25th season.
People are talking about The View in our forums. Join the conversation.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.