In a newly released excerpt from Ramin Setoodeh’s upcoming tell-all Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View (available April 2), Setoodeh shines a light the years model, author, actor and TV personality Jenny McCarthy spent on The View, a set that McCarthy likens to living in the horror movie Mommie Dearest. For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s not a piece of cinema you’d want to relive in your workplace.
Following the release of her 2007 book Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism, which gained McCarthy notoriety for arguing that vaccines had triggered her son Evan’s autism, McCarthy was invited to appear on The View. In the newly published excerpt, she remembers meeting show creator and moderator Barbara Walters before going on air. “I walked into her dressing room and she blew up at me,” says McCarthy. “She was screaming, ‘How dare you say this! That autism can be cured?’ My knees were shaking. I remember my whole body was shaking.”
Continuing, McCarthy says, “This lasted for about seven minutes. Finally, someone pulled me out of the room. I went back to my dressing room, not knowing what the fuck to do. One of my heroes just chewed me a new asshole, and I’m going on live TV. I’m freaking the fuck out.”
McCarthy alleges that Walters called her a liar and insisted that McCarthy begin her segment already seated with the hosts instead of walking onto the stage, which would have prompted applause from the audience. “It was not like I was trying to prove a scientific fact. It’s my story. I knew she couldn’t outsmart me in this interview because she can’t tell me what happened with my child. I was able to calm myself down,” says McCarthy, who believes that part of Walter’s outburst may have been fuelled by her late sister Jackie, who showed signs of autism.
“Back then, there really wasn’t anything you could do about it,” Jenny said. “She didn’t want to hear that there was maybe a possibility that her sister could have gotten better.”
After promising herself that she would never appear on The View again, McCarthy returned in 2012 to promote her next book, Bad Habits: Confessions of a Recovering Catholic, and remembers a completely different Barbara Walters. “She fully read my book cover to cover,” said Jenny. “She came to my dressing room and quoted dirty stories from it, asked me to autograph it for her, and she had no recollection that I had been there before. She was hugging me, loving on me. I was like, ‘This is the craziest fucking shit I’ve ever experienced in my life.’”
In 2013, The View producers wanted to begin transitioning away from politics and towards a more approachable pop culture focus and McCarthy’s name popped up to replace outgoing host Elisabeth Hasselback. McCarthy remembers walking into a dynamic that was volatile, with 83-year-old Walters having announced this would be her final season on The View. “It’s her last year and she doesn’t want to leave. Think about that. And I’m the new bitch there,” said McCarthy, who calls her experience as a host on The View “…the most miserable I’ve been on a job in my 25 years of show business.”
With Walters finding it difficult to keep up with the pop culture topics, producers informed McCarthy that the tone of the show was shifting and would be more focused on politics. “I was told, ‘We cannot do pop culture anymore because she doesn’t know who the people are.’ I panicked because I don’t consider myself a political person. My controversy is in vaccines. I know I’m not talking about that every day. Now I had to figure out, ‘Am I coming out as a Republican or a Democrat? Where do I stand on all the social issues and political issues?’”
Whoopi Goldberg joined midway through the season and McCarthy says she was disappointed the actor never warmed to her. “The table is an interesting dynamic because it reminds me a little bit of Survivor. There were allies, and there weren’t many people to choose from. Do I side with Barbara, who is royalty, but she’s leaving? Or do I take Whoopi, who is a force to be reckoned with?”
Tensions rose with the addition of Goldberg, who McCarthy says quickly took the commander position from Walters. “There was a war between Barbara and Whoopi about Barbara wanting to moderate,” Jenny said. “This is one of the reasons I decided not to ally with Whoopi. It broke my heart when Barbara would shuffle to Whoopi and say, ‘Can I moderate, please?’ And Whoopi would say no. How can you do this to a woman who paved the way for so many female journalists? The reason we’re doing this job is because of Barbara Walters.”
McCarthy said that she and Goldberg never became close because she refused to agree with all of Goldberg’s stances. “I wasn’t going to play a kiss-ass. To me, Whoopi had an addiction to controlling people’s thoughts, their words, the room, the table, your feeling, your mood. She had an addiction to controlling all of it and everybody.”
As for McCarthy’s feelings towards the her two co-hosts, she has sympathy for Walters, who was exhibiting signs of fatigue and confusion, but not for Goldberg. “She kept saying backstage, ‘I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave,’” said McCarthy of Walters. “Look at what Barbara did to me. I had zero hard feelings. I loved her like a grandma. She didn’t know any better.”
As for Goldberg? “Whoopi knew better.”