Podcast • Opinion
“Broken Doors,” Episode 1
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Critics pounce on Meghan McCain’s comments about Asian representation on ‘The View’

Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle appeared Nov. 7, 2019, on ABC’s “The View” as the show celebrated its 5,000th episode. (Lou Rocco /Walt Disney Television)
Placeholder while article actions load

“The View” co-host Meghan McCain is once again under fire after saying Wednesday that she feared “identity politics” would allow Asian people to get jobs over White people.

The show’s panelists were discussing calls by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) for more Asian American Pacific and Islander, or AAPI, representation among President Biden’s Cabinet. While the other co-hosts endorsed greater representation, McCain, who is considered the show’s conservative voice, questioned whether promoting AAPI figures would deal a blow to candidates who are more worthy of the positions — an assertion that earned a quick rebuke from many who said talent and diversity are not mutually exclusive.

Her comments were so widely shared on social media that her name became one of the top trending topics Wednesday on Twitter. By that evening, one video clip had more than 2.5 million views on the platform.

People pointed out that McCain’s argument was not an uncommon one in national discussions about race-conscious policies, including affirmative action, but that it was built around a perception that people of color fall short compared with White competitors. Others said McCain, the daughter of the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), was hypocritical, given the role her family’s identity has played in her media career.

McCain and “The View” declined to comment to The Post about the reaction to her comments.

Hours after the clip was widely shared, McCain tweeted: “I’ve accumulated tough, crocodile skin being in this industry as long as I have. I know who I am and what I believe in this world — just glad I can keep so many (many!!) of you talking and thinking even if it’s that you hate me and my opinions.”

However, even before the Internet reaction had escalated, McCain found herself at odds with other hosts who endorsed Duckworth’s relentless efforts to encourage representation in the White House.

Biden and Harris visit Atlanta after shooting rampage, vowing to stand against racism and xenophobia

“We are going to a place where even if people need money, even if people are qualified to get into Ivy Leagues, race and gender is more important than your skill qualifications, the content of your character,” McCain said.

“I think it’s not about gender and race being more important than qualifications,” responded Sunny Hostin, another host of the talk show. “It’s about the fact that there are many qualified women and minority candidates that never get the opportunity because of the advancement of generally White males’ mediocrity, because of things like legacy.”

In her remarks, McCain said “The View” had one Asian co-host, Lisa Ling, in its nearly 25 years on air, asking whether that meant one of the current hosts should step aside to make room for voices left unrepresented. Ling, who now has her own show on CNN, was on “The View” from 1999 to 2002.

“Is identity politics more important than the qualifications for the job?” McCain asked on the show.

That question raised eyebrows, as some wondered if McCain had implied that Asian women were not qualified to join the show.

“What underlies that question is this assumption that there are people of color who are not qualified, that you can’t find people of color who are qualified,” said OiYan Poon, an associate professor affiliate for educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “That is patently false and is quite frankly a racist assumption.”

People of color can frequently fill roles they are overqualified for, Poon said in an interview, because they are not afforded opportunities for advancement. She pointed to Ling, who began her career as a reporter at age 18.

The United States is no stranger to anti-Asian racism. As early as 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese immigration for 10 years. (Video: Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

Women and people of color also have few pipelines to jobs in certain industries dominated by White men because fewer opportunities for mentorship exist, said Vivian Louie, director of the Asian American Studies Program and Center at Hunter College.

“That’s not only applying to Asian Americans but all people of color,” Louie said.

Racist anti-Asian hashtags spiked after Trump first tweeted ‘Chinese virus,’ study finds

Earlier in the week, McCain gained attention when a clip from the show last year resurfaced in which she backed Donald Trump when he referred to the novel coronavirus as the “China virus.”

“If the left wants to focus on PC labeling this virus, it is a great way to get Trump reelected,” McCain said in March 2020. “I don’t have a problem with people calling it whatever they want. It’s a deadly virus that did originate in Wuhan.”

After comedian John Oliver re-aired the video on his show, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” in a segment devoted to the increased reports of violence against Asian Americans, McCain apologized.

“I condemn the reprehensible violence and vitriol that has been targeted towards the Asian-American community,” she tweeted Monday. “There is no doubt Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric fueled many of these attacks and I apologize for any past comments that aided that agenda.”

Amid conversations about anti-Asian violence, an Asian host of a daytime talk show probably would have the ability to speak from experience and identify with audience members, said Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist and author of “Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism.” But casting and writing rooms in Hollywood have remained largely White, and hiring is skewed toward White people, regardless of merit, Yuen said.

Pointing to the box office success “Crazy Rich Asians,” a romantic comedy released in 2018 with a majority-Asian cast, Yuen said producers, directors and others in Hollywood are “leaving money on the table” by ignoring AAPI audiences.

She added that the argument that people of color have not achieved such roles because they do not have the qualifications ignores that people have been excluded because of their backgrounds.

“When I heard her comments, I immediately thought about all the agents and Hollywood personnel that have blamed the victim, in terms of ‘they aren’t talented enough’ or ‘there isn’t enough of them,’ ” Yuen said, “rather than examining how the system has prevented certain talent from getting through.”

Read more here:

After their father’s death came a handwritten note: ‘One less Asian to put up with’

Amid national attention on bias crimes, Asian American leaders struggle over where to take their movement

The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.