The behind-the-scenes drama surrounding Abby Huntsman's departure from “The View” is just the latest example of ABC News’ problems with staffer leaks and agenda-driven executives, insiders tell Fox News.
Huntsman surprised viewers this week by announcing she’s walking away from ABC News’ popular daytime talk show, explaining she wanted to help her father, Jon Huntsman Jr., campaign for governor of Utah. Her exit comes as the network battles a growing problem of chatty staffers causing issues for hosts, producers and executives, with ABC News increasingly being portrayed as a not-so-great place to work.
“ABC News is the nastiest, most vicious swamp in the business – so of course it leaks like a sieve," a longtime media executive familiar with the inner workings of ABC News told Fox News. "That’s a symptom of rock-bottom morale."
Citing “an insider familiar with Huntsman’s thinking,” Page Six reported that working for her father’s campaign “isn’t the real reason for her exit,” and that she actually decided to part ways because of “an unhealthy environment.” The source also told Page Six that Huntsman had complained about the show’s environment to ABC News executives.
Hours later, The Daily Mail published a report claiming Huntsman actually left the show because her future “was hanging on by a thread” and she was on the verge of being phased out. The report cited a “well-placed source” within ABC News who claimed viewers find Huntsman “bland” and that she lacked chemistry with the other women. Some insiders feel the Daily Mail report was a clear retaliation for reports on the show’s culture.
But the drama doesn't end there. Tuesday evening another report surfaced, this time by The Daily Beast, which indicated that Huntsman “didn’t comply” with ABC News executives’ orders to combat the negative reports about the show’s venomous behind-the-scenes drama. Daily Beast editor at large Lloyd Groves called the Daily Mail report a “hatchet job” and reported an insider who said ABC News “threw Abby under the bus.”
Reporter Yashar Ali also shot down the Daily Mail report, calling it "simply not true."
“Abby did not leave because she thought she was on the chopping block,” Ali wrote. “This is what I was referring to yesterday re the View's toxic culture... they destroy people.”
“This is completely untrue,” an ABC News spokesperson told Fox News when asked about the report that Huntsman was “thrown under the bus.”
The spokesperson also pointed to ABC News senior vice president Barbara Fedida, who told Fox News that “Abby's future on the show was never in jeopardy or in question.”
However, an insider told Fox News that ABC News will “come back at you in a very personal way” if honchos feel attacked.
TV executives and on-air personalities have historically preferred outlets such as the New York Post’s Page Six and The Daily Mail when looking to plant a narrative, as they are widely read within the industry and aren’t directly connected to network television competitors. Last week, a separate Page Six report featured anonymous sources ripping co-host Meghan McCain as “rude and dismissive.”
There has been a narrative created that McCain, the show’s outspoken conservative, is the cause of many behind-the-scenes issues, but insiders say the real problem is chatty staffers with their own agenda dishing to the press. This was evident on Monday when CNN reported recent tensions between Huntsman and McCain despite noting that “three people” said the duo had already made amends.
A source close to the show downplayed the McCain storyline, telling Fox News that rumors she has become an “outcast” off-camera are highly exaggerated.
“It’s a big mess over there,” an industry veteran who has spoken to “View” panelists told Fox News.
“Talent is concerned with leaks,” another insider confirmed.
Drama at “The View” is nothing new. Last year Ramin Setoodeh’s book, "Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View," chronicled the show’s long history of infighting and co-host tension.
But “The View” isn’t the only unit of ABC News making headlines because of leaky staffers and executives. The viciousness was also on full display last year when a leaked video resulted in the firing of a low-level staffer who appeared to be innocent.
Anchor Amy Robach was caught last year on a hot mic claiming higher-ups at her network killed a story that would have exposed the now-deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein three years ago. The Disney-owned news organization says it wasn't up to their standards but Robach appeared to disagree on footage published by Project Veritas, which said that the tape was leaked by an ABC News insider.
The leak caused a public relations nightmare for ABC News and things got even worse when the network launched an internal investigation to determine the culprit.
Ashley Bianco, a former producer on ABC’s “Good Morning America” who joined rival “CBS This Morning” shortly before the Robach tape was published, was abruptly fired by CBS. But she publicly denied that she was the leaker and Project Veritas published a note from the alleged "ABC insider" it claimed was behind the leak.
The alleged leaker -- using the pseudonym "Ignotus" – said they made the information public out of "anger, confusion and sadness."
"I’ve walked the halls experiencing similar feelings we are all having right now," they wrote, addressing ABC employees. "All of you regardless of your own personal differences in one form or another do an outstanding job. I sincerely enjoy working with each and every one of you and will continue to do so throughout our careers."
So at ABC News, with “The View” soon down one co-host, and being buffeted by bad press, having moles continue to walk the halls can’t be reassuring.
“The show has a great team in front of and behind the camera who work really hard to put the show on the air on a daily basis,” an ABC News source told Fox News. “Leaks undermine that hard work.”
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.