On Monday morning, Jenny McCarthy was officially named the new co-host of "The View." By that afternoon, she could unofficially be called the series's most controversial addition yet. McCarthy has an unusual resumé for a mainstream talk show host: Playboy Playmate, MTV game show host, parody film star, parenting author, and one of the biggest public opponents of childhood vaccines. It's that last line on her CV that's sparking the outrage bubbling up on social media after the announcement.
"Sickened that @theviewtv is going to give anti-vaccination zealot Jenny McCarthy a bigger platform,"
tweeted feminist author Jessica Valenti.
"ABC and the View should be ashamed of themselves. Jenny McCarthy deserves to be on some History conspiracy show, not network television," tweeted the Guardian's Harry Enten.
"The View? I for one am immune to her charms," culture critic Mo Rocca quipped, pun intended.
Comedian and TV writer Julie Klausner, meanwhile, re-imagined the network's boardroom decision process: "'Hmm. Child killers, child killers. Is John Wayne Gacy...? Not female. Susan Smith? Out of the demo. Ooh! Jenny McCarthy!' — The View casting."
By Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy and "The View" had not responded Yahoo! Shine's request for comment on the brewing backlash.
After co-hosts Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck decided to leave at the end of this season, the show needed some new fire-starters, and possibly some more carriers of foot-in-mouth disease. If there's any surefire way to keep viewers attention, it's through controversy.
"The View" loses two co-hosts
In "The View" hall of fame there's Sherri Shepherd's world-view (it's maybe flat), Starr Jones' wedding, Whoopi Goldberg's defense of Mel Gibson, Behar's stand-off with Bill O'Reilly and Hasselbeck's repeated run-ins with show co-hosts. They've all contributed to the fact that we still care about an old show's new co-host, after so many have come and gone. (Remember Rosie? And what about the great search for Lisa Ling?)
The secret formula for the show's success borrows from "American Idol": watching a trainwreck moment is part of the fun, especially when they merit a verbal punishment from series co-creator Barbara Walters — aka, daytime's Simon Cowell.
Walters's on-camera announcement suggested McCarthy will provide plenty more opportunities for both. "She can be serious and outrageous," said Walters, carefully pointing to McCarthy's "fresh point of view."
That view includes the assertion that chemicals in vaccinations triggered her child's autism, and that vaccinating children to prevent infectious diseases causes more harm than good. Needless to say, McCarthy's opinions aren't favored by the medical community and her information has been largely discredited. Now her opponents are concerned that she will use her new, powerful platform to speak out against vaccinations, and ultimately contribute to the spread of infectious diseases. (Some have even linked the antivaccination movement to the recent measles outbreak.)
"McCarthy’s views constitute, in my opinion, a threat to public health," wrote Slate's Phil Plait, who recently asked readers to campaign against McCarthy's new gig. "And even if she doesn’t talk about any of her nonsensical health ideas on the show, the very fact that she now has this co-host position gives her a tacit credibility to the viewer."
The New Yorker's Michael Specter, author of "Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives," had even stronger words for the network. "I think a network hiring a homicidal maniac, giving her a forum in front of people who have young children and are impressionable, is the most irresponsible thing I've heard of in a long time," Specter told the Los Angeles Times.
In her 20-year career in the entertainment industry, McCarthy has paved an unconventional path from pin-up to parenting guru. Author of the New York Times best-seller "Belly Laughs," and at one point a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, McCarthy's career took a controversial turn when she began speaking out about her son's autism, crediting her research on vaccines with her "degree" from the "University of Google." Despite her detractors, McCarthy has maintained her position, penning the 2007 memoir "Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism" and gathering a loyal fanbase in the process.
Those supporters stepped up on Monday to show love on Twitter amid the thorny ridicule. "You deserve respect Jenny you're absolutely beautiful," wrote one fan. Another added, "Excited that @JennyMcCarthy will be co hosting my mom's favorite show. Now maybe I'll watch when she tells me to." Bravo's Andy Cohen seemed to land on Team Jenny as well: "Big Mazel to the great
@JennyMcCarthy! #theView is abt to get #cray." Even exiting co-host Joy Behar sent her best wishes to McCarthy, who will start her new full-time gig in September. Behar joked: "Congrats @JennyMcCarthy on your new gig at @theviewtv. Watch out for Barbara's wandering hands!"
On Monday evening, McCarthy posted a message to her fans: "Beyond grateful for your sweet supportive tweets."
In one of the first responses to McCarthy's tweet, a fan asked "What are we supporting?" That is the big question — not just for fans, but also for network executives. They'll have to wait until September, when McCarthy joins the new season of the "The View," for their answer.