An earlier lineup of The View from 2020 featuring, from top left, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, and, from bottom left, Sunny Hostin and Meghan McCain. Photograph: AP
From: UK Guardian
Wedged between Let’s Make A Deal and General Hospital in the US daytime TV ratings is the The View, a venerable, sometimes contentious forum for gossip, banter and political debate. To some, it’s an inspired cultural phenomenon; to others a blundering mess. Sometimes both.
The ABC daytime show The View suspended Whoopi Goldberg for comments about the Holocaust but not everyone thinks the incident was handled well
Either way, it has been on since 1997 after being created by expert guest tear-inducer and news legend Barbara Walters around the premise of women of different generations – ‘the ladies” – debating headlines of the day.
It’s not just Whoopi Goldberg: Americans are deeply misinformed about the Holocaust
Last week, it – again – veered into contentious turf when Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg – a Black cast member since 2007 when Rosie O’Donnell stormed out after an explosive confrontation with co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck about the Iraq war – voiced her opinion that the Holocaust was “not about race”.
“This is white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves,” she continued after being challenged that it was precisely about race and ethnicity. The show’s producers faded to mood music and cut to a commercial break.
The conversation had its own controversial origins: a recent decision by a school district in Tennessee to remove Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its curriculum.
Goldberg provoked outcry from Jewish groups and others, proceeded to repeat her thoughts on late-night TV, subsequently apologized twice and was then handed a two-week unpaid suspension and advised by the ABC News president, Kim Godwin, “to take time and reflect on the impact of her comments”.
In one sense, last week’s spat was the kind of hot interaction in which The View excels and it generated a slew of headlines and talking points. On the other hand, no one in their right mind wants a host accused of antisemitism and the headlines were largely the sort that any network head would prefer to avoid.
But The View has long been a source of trouble – both good and bad – and a huge national platform. In its original format, The View counted Walters, broadcast journalist Meredith Viera, lawyer Star Jones, TV host Debbie Matenopoulos and comedian Joy Behar among its number.
Whoopi Goldberg was told ‘to take time and reflect on the impact of her comments’ by the ABC News president. Photograph: Jenny Anderson/AP
“We started with them because we liked them the best,” recalled producer Bill Geddie in Ramin Setoodah’s account of the show, Ladies Who Punch. “A comedian in her fifties, a journalist mom in her forties, a professional lawyer in her thirties, and someone in her twenties.”
Three weeks into the show’s start, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash. Debbie wept. “By going all in on feelings, The View embodied a moment,” Setoodah wrote.
Five months on from that, the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke with its hot-button characters: a philandering president who claimed to be a feminist, a young woman, a vindictive friend in the form of Linda Tripp who Behar christened “Mrs Ronald Macdonald”, and a devastated wife. “The Europeans are laughing at us,” Behar continued. “You cannot bring a country down to its knees because a girl is on her knees.”
The show quickly became a political go-to for its direct access to stay-at-home moms. “The politicians want to go on the view because it gives them a national audience and also gives them access to the individual groups that watch the particular panels,” political strategist Hank Sheinkopf told the Guardian.
In 2010, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to appear on this or any daytime chat show. His successor appeared 18 times before he took office, including one in which he said his daughter was so pretty he might date her.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton used the show as a warm-up act for her 2008 and 2106 presidential runs. Most recently, last October, she warned “the ladies” that Donald Trump continued to perpetuate a ‘full constitutional crisis”
But in recent years, The View has slipped in the ratings.
Barbara Walters retired, and the show took on a more contentious political edge when it hired Meghan McCain, daughter of the late center-right senator John McCain. She left last year, saying she had enjoyed her four years in what she described as an “anthropological experiment in left-wing media”.
McCain wrote in a subsequent memoir, Bad Republican, that The View was a “toxic” workplace environment. She quit the show, she wrote, because she felt her colleagues mistreated her for having conservative views. “As the country got worse under Trump, the treatment from Whoopi, Joy and some of the staff grew meaner and less forgiving.
“It felt like the co-hosts and staff only knew one Republican – me – and took out all their anger on me, even though I didn’t even vote for Trump,” McCain added.
Meghan McCain later complained that The View was a ‘toxic’ workplace environment for her. Photograph: Heidi Gutman/AP
The latest blow-up with Goldberg could have been better handled, many commentators believe. Sheinkopf says ABC’s parent, Disney, could have taken Goldberg in the corporate jet to Poland “to show what actually happened” and to “look at the information instead of shaming her in public”. Instead, the exchange has been left “controversial and unresolved”.
According to Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an African American Jew and professor of theoretical physics who studies the history of race in science, the comments reflected a contextual disagreement. “I think Whoopi Goldberg is wrong and the Holocaust was a genocide rooted in racialization. But I think we have a framework disagreement, and there’s nothing antisemitic about her words.”
To Maiysha Kai, lifestyle editor at thegio.com, the exchange reflects “the weird sort of comparative dialogs that aren’t always as helpful as we intend to be”.
“I don’t think Whoopi’s intention was to be offensive, but I think there was an error in how it was responded to. This is a forum created for these women to have free speech and often very lively dialogue about certain things.”
Shutting the conversation down, Kai says, came off as abrupt, especially after what Black progressives had witnessed for years with Meghan McCain on the same panel.
“I feel like we were deprived of a necessary dialogue and probably a really long-overdue one. If there’s an education that needs to happen, which clearly there is, I don’t think it’s an education that she needs alone.”
The show’s remit is all about keeping a public conversation going: The View’s epic, 25-years-and-running TV innovation that has centered the views and opinions of outspoken women.
In an exchange reported in Ladies Who Punch, Hillary Clinton had gone on the show the day Rosie O’Donnell roasted Donald Trump for his infidelities and money issues, beginning a long feud that made it into two presidential debates.
Clinton told Behar she was laughing so hard backstage she was worried she wouldn’t make it on to the set. “Every day we’re in trouble on this show,” Behar responded. Clinton expressed curiosity, wondering why that might happen. “I don’t know,” Behar responded. “We’re just women.”