Speaking with TooFab, Setoodeh shared how the interview process went down, why he feels audiences are so obsessed with the show and what he really hopes those who read his book learn from it. To see what he had to say about Elisabeth Hasselbeck's reaction to comments Rosie made about her in the book, click here.
Keep reading for the full Q&A:
How does it feel to finally have this out, as someone who used to report on the show, now releasing a whole book about it?
It just came out today, so I don't know. I'm looking forward to people reading it and discovering it and hearing what people think about it; but it's really exciting to finally be done with the book and having it at bookstores. There's always been a tremendous amount of interest in "The View" whenever I've written about it and I've been a journalist for 15 years and the one thing that always generates the most interest of all the things i've covered has been stories about "The View". I was hopeful there would be a lot of interest in it, based on my previous observations on the coverage. But yes, it's very exciting that people are interested.
You touch on it in the book, but why do you think people are so obsessed with "The View," whether it's watching the show itself or the behind the scenes drama?
I think it's that "The View" touches on a lot of important quarters of our society. It's women in Hollywood, it's red states versus blue states, it's politics but also in the entertainment industry, there's a tremendous amount of reach in what the show covers and what people look at the show for.
You did three years worth of interviews for this, who was the hardest interview to nail down?
There wasn't just one person, it was very much a process. I would write emails to people or letters to people and then they either would or wouldn't respond and then I would write again. So there wasn't one person that took forever to say yes and then they finally said yes, it truly was, every cohost I interviewed was its own separate process. It was an adventure trying to get every single person to talk to me.
I think the most important voices in the book belong to Barbara and Rosie and talking to the original cohosts of the show, you know, Joy and Meredith and Star, were all really important to me. Everyone I talked to was very crucial to the book, because I wanted to have a very expansive vision of what it was like to be on the show. I knew that I had to have a lot of cohosts and my goal originally was to have seven of them, and I ended up with 11 in the end, which was good.
Very impressive number. Was there anything in the book that you were hesitant about including?
No, everything in the book has been vetted and fact checked and there was a really careful fact checking process involved where I spent a significant amount of time going back and checking everything in the book with the person who told it to me and a secondary source. Everything was really, really carefully checked.
The women from the show, did you fill them in on what other people were saying as you went?
I was very upfront with everyone as I was reporting the book. As I was talking to different cohosts, I would share things that cohosts said and give everyone a chance to respond to what other cohosts had said about them. I think that helped in terms of lining up the interviews. When I had a certain amount of cohosts, other cohosts were willing to do it given that I had so many of them on the record.
Do you think some of them were surprised about what others said about them?
I think the book is surprising in that it's so honest. It's a very very honest book and there's a lot of information in it. I gave people a sense of the scope of the book as I was checking it. It's essentially when actors were like, "I didn't know what the whole movie was but I knew what my scenes were." I think everyone knew what their scenes were but I don't know if they knew what the entire book was.
As someone who's been covering this show for so long, was there a particular moment you were really excited to dig in on?
I had a sense that this was a book when Rosie O'Donnell came back to the show for a second time. The show has such a history, but the narrative arc of Barbara, Rosie and Whoopi and having Rosie try to come back to the show for a second time and it ultimately not working out, that's when I started to see it as a book and I wanted to make sure that I built the entire book around that and the concept that these are the three women who were the keyholders of the franchise.
It seems like the Rosie interview is one that fills a lot of pages. She had a lot to say and has a strong point of view. Can you talk about your conversations with her?
I've interviewed Rosie several times over the last 10 years. She's always a completely honest and interesting interview. She always has something interesting to say and always has a specific point of view about things, so I knew she was important to the book. We had a conversation that was on the record where she spoke at lunch and it was a conversation where I went through everything and then we talked on the phone and we had a subsequent followup.
Do you think Elisabeth's own book -- which came out last week -- had something to do with her not doing interviews for this?
I think that's a question for her. All I know is she wasn't writing a book when I first reached out to her and during subsequent emails when I was telling her it was important for her to tell her side of the story, she still hadn't closed the deal to write a book. I don't know if my writing a book, influenced her to also write a book or what the timeline was, but she certainly hadn't signed any deal when I started working on this book.
You mention in the book that a few publishers turned it down, why do you think that is?
It was turned down by more than 20 publishers. I was selling this book before the election, 20 publishers passed on it and I just kept hearing it was a media book and media books didn't sell and I don't think a lot of publishers saw this as this incredible story of this really influential show. This book always was about the relationship between these women and why this show was so culturally important in our society.
There have been so many headlines about the infighting on the show, but what is the big message you do want people to take away from the book when they've read it?
I hope that when people finally read the book, they see that it's a cohesive work of journalism, it's a serious work of journalism and it's also about a show that's culturally important and influenced so much of our culture. When Barbara Walters brought the show into daytime, she brought politics into daytime, she brought a platform for women to talk about important issues to daytime, she offered us a glimpse into what Donald Trump could be like as a presidential candidate when he was fighting with Rosie O'Donnell.
She launched the careers of Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar and many of the other cohosts on the show. She created something that was mimicked and there were all these shows where other people express their opinions. It was also ahead of its time in that reality TV hadn't really become a mainstay, so the idea that these women were friends and spoke about everything predicted the "Real Housewives" and "The Hills" and this batch of reality TV shows that were about women friends.
What do you think is next for the show?
I know that certainly Joy and Whoopi are staying through the 2020 election, is what my reporting indicated. Joy, I think, told me that directly. I think the show will be around for a few more years, I think it depends on how much longer some of the current cohosts decide to stay on the show. I think if Whoopi decides to leave, I think there will be questions about the future of "The View" because "The View" is so closely associated with her. When Whoopi was signaling that she was ready to leave, ABC was trying to see if Meredith Vieira would come back as moderator. I think if Whoopi does leave, it dramatically changes the show.