Why Meghan McCain continues to flail

Leaving "The View" has left McCain out of the conversation. Platforming an idiotic con man won't bring her back in

By Melanie McFarland

Senior Critic

Published October 27, 2023 12:00PM (EDT)

Meghan McCain attends the 2023 TIME100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 26, 2023 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME)
Meghan McCain attends the 2023 TIME100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 26, 2023 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME)

Give Meghan McCain a little bit of credit. During New York Congressman George Santos' visit to “Meghan McCain Has Entered the Chat,” she successfully got him to talk about the baby. You know, the “mystery baby” Santos was filmed holding on Oct. 13 as he dashed away from reporters, answering the question of whether the infant was his with a terse, “Not yet.” What was that about? Where did that baby go? Where did they come from? Whose baby was it, and why on Earth did the parents think it was safe for a con artist to run off with such precious cargo?

When the former heel of “The View” broached the topic near the top of her new podcast’s third episode the na​ïf in me wondered if he’d answer those questions. Honestly, if Santos produced a response – any response – that would be worth the precious life force spent listening to an hour of back-and-forth nonsense between the equivalent of a box of hair and an overflowing colostomy bag.

To do that, McCain would have had to have asked any of those questions. Since my time was wasted listening to two of the most hated people in America blather at each other, allow me to help you preserve yours. In the baby discussion, Santos never identified the baby’s parents, and McCain never pressed him about it. To know anything about Meghan McCain is to expect as much – she’s incapable of holding anyone accountable because doing that would draw attention to that person and away from her.

What the host and producers of “Meghan McCain Has Entered the Chat” thought the public would gain from spending an hour with a serial liar remains as much of a puzzle as the purpose of Santos' spontaneous 100-yard scamp trot. The ways that the New York congressman’s appearance on her show stands to benefit her are plainer to comprehend. 

McCain is incapable of holding anyone accountable because doing that would draw attention to that person and away from her.

He thrives on seizing the attention of unlucky bystanders, and she needs some of it. He wants people to keep talking about him, and she’s aching to re-establish her political relevance ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.

But her admission of being surprised that Santos agreed to come on her podcast is akin to a virgin praying to God that the hooker he’s hired will find him attractive enough to sleep with him.

“You're such a fascinating person,” she gushes as she launches into their 61-minute time suck. “One of the things though, is. . . . I feel like there's a lot of misconceptions about you and people don't really know you.”

Could that be due to, I don't know, all the aliases, alleged identity theft and lying – so much lying? Who knows? McCain takes his statements at face value because why wouldn’t she? The two are simpatico. When he claims the press made up some of the crazier findings about him, like the circumstances of his drag appearance when he was a younger and more natural-faced grifter, she doesn’t question it.

“Nobody cares about being factually accurate," Santos says of news channels that have covered the many ways he's demonstrated an allergy to facts or accuracy.

Oh, but it gets better. When McCain asked what he would say to those who claim Donald Trump turned his back on the Republican party after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Santos answers, “Look, it's so personal for me because I know so many people involved in Jan. 6 that were unjustly involved.”

He goes on to talk about watching footage from his hotel room and explains that while he didn’t condone the violence, “There are people who I've seen that are going to jail and getting sentences, heavy sentences that were standing on the lawn or went past the barricade and were taking videos, and like, might have said something stupid, but never even entered The Capitol building.”

“And you know those people personally?” McCain asks, to which Santos blurts, “I don't know them personally, I just know their stories. I've met their stories.”

This episode has slenderizing, surface-smoothing effects on the brain.

Oh. He’s met their stories.

For more than two largely glorious years the world has been free of regular updates about who or what was making Meghan McCain stay mad. When she was on “The View” the answer was usually Joy Behar, sometimes Whoopi Goldberg, and on more than a few occasions, Joy and Whoopi, with Sunny Hostin tossing in a finishing move.

McCain’s anger kept Twitter fed and fueled hundreds of snarky news briefs. Then one day she left, and the skies opened as a heavenly host sang hallelujah. Shortly afterward we forgot what it was like to have her in our collective grill all the time.

Since then, she released a memoir bursting with dish about the behind-the-scenes toxicity at “The View." It sold a whopping 244 copies in its first week. She started writing a rarely quoted weekly column for The Daily Mail.

Now it seems her podcast is sorely in need of an audience, which is why she invited Santos to be one of her first guests.

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But that misinterprets why people bothered to read about McCain when she topped the discourse mountain — she's a terrific adversary. Not a brilliant one, but a solid block. 

Flaccid posturing doesn't wear well on her, but without sparring partners to make her irresistibly despicable, squishiness is all she has. 

McCain explained at the top of the hourlong episode that she and her producer made a list of people they wanted to have on, “just because we thought they were really fascinating people in politics and culture.” Santos was one of them. That part, I get. 

This is a guy facing 23 felony counts for what the New York Times describes as “a variety of financial schemes, many of which involve his campaign,” to which he has pleaded not guilty. Santos is also staring down House Ethics Committee investigations into his finances and sexual misconduct allegations.

But Santos is a wellspring of other more comparatively benign yet utterly stupid deceptions as well, like walking back the claim that he is Jewish to explain he meant to say he was “Jew-ish,” or attributing bounced checks written in his name to Amish dog breeders to thieves who stole one of his checkbooks. Legitimately fascinating to be sure.

Santos has produced so much ludicrous theater for news cameras that, in the hands of a probative interviewer with minimal fact-checking ability, some quality wild weirdness could have been mined from the situation. 

That would take skepticism, a sense of humor and the ability to recognize what New York Times reporter Grace Ashford describes as “the peculiar experience of being confided in and lied to at the same time.” McCain possesses none of those qualities or talents.

McCain apparently knows herself at least that well, offering this disclaimer before subjecting us to what may be the most intellectually bereft podcast conversations I’ve experienced in recent memory.

“As I mentioned in the announcement of my podcast, my goal here is to offer a safe environment for people of all backgrounds. While I may not agree with everything they say here or have done, I believe that they should have the opportunity to share their side of the story,” she says.

McCain goes on to add, “Plenty of reputable reporters and publications have interviewed controversial elected officials, and even those who have charges against them. I plan to do the same so we as listeners have the chance to make our own choices on how we view them.”

How often do plans and actions turn out to be one and the same?

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Being that our collective disdain for Santos is a bipartisan issue, it doesn’t matter that most people have made up their minds about him. Still, you have questions, right? Questions that probably don’t include the man’s skin care regimen.

Predictably this was McCain’s first area of interest, along with delving into his sweater vest collection. “You have beautiful skin,” she coos, prompting him to share that he uses La Mer moisturizer, has been getting Botox treatments since he was 25 and uses Ozempic, which he believes should be more widely available to everyone. What’s funny about that is realizing that like those injectable treatments Santos boasts about, this episode has slenderizing, surface-smoothing effects on the brain.

On Tuesday, the day Santos’ episode of McCain’s podcast dropped, nary a peep about it registered on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter where her name used to trend regularly. Maybe everyone who used to look for her missed the memo about this perspective-altering discourse. It’s more likely that the larger audience removed itself from that group chat for a reason and has no intention of opening that door again.


By Melanie McFarland

Melanie McFarland is Salon's award-winning senior culture critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

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Commentary George Santos Meghan Mccain Meghan Mccain Has Entered The Chat Podcast