Meghan McCain Opens Up About Leaving 'The View' : 'I Felt Punished for Having a Different Opinion'

The conservative TV personality announced her exit from The View in July after four years as a panelist

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Meghan McCain. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Meghan McCain is opening up about her decision to leave The View.

The conservative TV personality, 36, announced her exit from the long-running talk show in July, citing her life in Washington, D.C. with husband Ben Domenech and daughter Liberty as a reason for her departure.

In an interview for this week's issue, McCain, whose audio memoir Bad Republican debuts Thursday on Audible, tells PEOPLE she felt the culture of the ABC series had grown "toxic" by the end.

"I kind of feel The View is like when the guy who has a bad reputation wants to date you and you're like, 'I'm going to be the one to change him,'" McCain says. "That's what The View is to me. I was like, 'I'm going to be the one to change this. I'm going to be the one that's going to help the culture and whip it into shape and all these things.'"

In a statement, a spokesperson for The View tells PEOPLE, "For 25 years, The View has been a platform on air and behind the scenes for strong women. Live television and different perspectives can often lead to surprising moments, but the team is collaborative and supportive — focused on delivering an informative daily talk show to our loyal viewers."

McCain says things changed for her while doing the show remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When I worked at the show, [my mindset was], 'I'm not going to quit. I'm so tough. I'm going to ride this out. I'm so tough. I'm the toughest, toughest b----,'" she says. "And then in COVID I was just like, 'Do I want to be the toughest b----? What do I have to prove?' I've done so many things."

McCain says while there were "a lot of really amazing things that happened" during her four years as a panelist, she felt things began getting "personal" when the show went remote.

"I had a lot of really good times too — it's not all negative," she says. "It just got really negative the last season."

"I really loved debating politics," she continues. "I actually really love fighting, as long as there are rules. I don't like when it's personal, and it started getting really, really personal."

During her final season, the daughter of the late Sen. John McCain co-hosted The View with Sunny Hostin, Joy Behar, Sara Haines and moderator Whoopi Goldberg.

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ABC's "The View" - Season 21. Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty

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She says there was a loss of "nuance" that came with each of the hosts doing the show remotely from separate locations via Zoom. And her absence during her maternity leave only made matters worse.

"I think they liked not having me," she says of her time off before and after welcoming Liberty in September 2020. "I think they liked not having someone who would fight with them or give an unpopular opinion. I was very insecure about not being missed on maternity leave. I felt it. I felt like they didn't miss me."

When McCain did return in January, Behar, 79, told her co-host on-air that she "didn't miss" her when she was away.

"Being told that to my face on national television shocked me and cut me deep," McCain says. "I cried for days."

McCain, who was also suffering from postpartum anxiety at the time, says the comment was "the worst thing anyone ever did to me on camera in my entire life."

"And people had done a lot of s--- to me on camera," she adds.

She says she and Behar have not spoken privately since, and notes that she thinks the show could have done more to facilitate a reconciliation between her and the comedian.

"Had somehow the executive producers or the network come together to fix it and to make us talk it out in a real way, I would've moved on," McCain says. "So that's on them."

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McCain, who often clashed with Behar on the show, says she "felt punished for having a different opinion."

"I think that [Behar] needs to understand that the point of the show was for a variety of opinions. That's the whole purpose of it that Barbara Walters started out with," she says. "The emphasis was always on me and I felt that was unfair. And again, if this was such an issue, there are producers paid a great deal of money to mitigate this. They didn't want to, didn't care to, or just were too lazy to, and I don't know the answer to what it is."

In the end, McCain says there were a variety of reasons for her exit.

"People go through dark times and struggle and have babies, and people get cancer and things happen and it's awful. Good things happen too, but if I was in a place in my life that was completely strong and there was nothing going on that was negative, I could have done the show forever," she says. "The problem is my life happened."

Bad Republican will be released Thursday on Audible.

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