I want to be clear that I sympathize with audiences who want there to be values-conservative icons. We live in a pretty depraved world today, and it would be nice for there to be role models to guide us or at least serve as a standard we measure ourselves against. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to vet these models to make sure that they are who they say they are.
With matters like populism, we can simply check to see how much money they've taken from Wall Street banks, or whatever else. With moral values, the actions that provide proof are usually private and deeply held secrets -- or maybe they're not really there after all. But if there is damning evidence, it will probably be hard to uncover without devoting massive resources to unearthing it.
What we get instead is a contest to see who is holier than thou, each of the competitors striving to maximize their morality stats in order to draw in the largest crowd of eyeballs to sell to TV advertisers or book publishers.
In Hasselbeck's case, her schtick on The View (from 2003 to 2013) was standard cuckservatism of the 2000s -- protesting against abortion while accepting its finality, and shilling hard for the Iraq War well into the late Bush years. She still hadn't figured out which nationality brought down the World Trade Center on 9/11.
But those views were a dime a dozen back then. What drew in huge audiences of youngish and middle-aged women was the aggressive cultivation of her persona as a wholesome, traditional, yet hip mother-and-wife who could also hold down a career and look great on national TV every day. This lifestyle and persona appeal of hers continued into the transition to a more officially conservative venue, the Fox & Friends morning talk show, in 2013.
And then a strange thing happened -- late last year, she abruptly announced she would be leaving not just the show, but the network and the medium, indefinitely. I never watched Fox News, let alone The View, so I didn't think anything of it at the time (I did happen to be watching the morning show a little). If she stuck with The View for an entire decade, and now had a venue more suitable to her, why on Earth would she be leaving so early?
Her official reason was that she was entering a "season" where her kids needed her to be there full-time, and that she needed to give them "the best of me, not the rest of me". Again, not knowing anything about her career history at the time, I took that at face value. Nothing weird about a female conservative icon heeding the calling of domestic duties over career ambitions.
But if she was at The View for a decade, she likes not only having a career but being on TV. There's no way that desire would have stopped so suddenly in late 2015. She'd only just gotten going on her Fox career, having been there for only two years.
As for her kids, by late 2015 they were 6, 8, and 10 years old -- still needing maternal supervision, but not exactly in their most vulnerable stages of development. In fact, Hasselbeck kept working in daily TV production when her children were infants, and indeed while she was pregnant. A 2007 notice from People magazine said that while she would take some maternity leave, she would host the show right up until her due date. And of course she didn't end her busy TV career once she had one, two, and then three kids. As infants, toddlers, and schoolchildren, the three of them were growing up with a full-time working mother, which clearly did not bother her.
Why the sudden maternal guilt? There wasn't even a triggering event like another pregnancy, a crisis in the family, or something else.
Apart from hosting a daily TV show, she also wrote two books about the gluten-free diet in '08 and '12, when her children were infant to school-aged. This separate career track didn't cause her to reconsider how much or how little time her kids were getting from their mother. Building her personal media brand came first.
Then there's the timing of her departure from Fox: she bowed out during the Christmas / New Year's period (Dec 22), when the fewest possible viewers would be paying attention. If she's such a beloved icon, she should have waited until her fans were not so distracted by the back-to-back holidays to share their final moments with her. Maybe host the New Year's Eve celebration, and end on a high note.
This is also the most highly watched election season in recent memory, so it makes even less sense to bail now than during the relatively more boring seasons of the 21st century.
So why the abrupt and indefinite self-sequestering of a values-conservative icon? If this item from Blind Gossip is to be believed, she may have had an affair with a married man -- none other than the Donald himself. The item was reported on Aug 13, 2015:
Whether you love or hate this Presidential Candidate, he certainly gets people talking. One of those people is a female journalist from a large media company. She had an affair with the married Candidate. She has been talking to friends and colleagues about how worried she is that the story of the affair will break nationally and ruin them both.
Obviously the candidate is Trump. Because this came out one week after the first GOP debate where Megyn Kelly obsessively hounded him, almost every commenter at Blind Gossip figured that the journalist was her -- no wonder she behaved like a vindictive jilted lover!
But several pieces of the item don't really fit with it being Kelly. If she and Trump had an affair, and the news of it broke nationally, it would not ruin either of them. Trump's affair with Marla Maples during his first marriage is well known, and he has even said that those episodes are fair game in this election season (again, nobody cares about these topics this time around, so he exposes himself to almost no risk in being so frank about the affair).
Nor would it ruin Kelly -- it would certainly make for big-league awkwardness, but she has not built her personal brand on being the most moral family-values icon under 40 or 50. Her persona is being sassy, bossy, edgy, etc. -- not a traditional wife and mother with wholesome girl-next-door appeal.
Also, the word "talking" is used twice in the brief blind item, suggesting a talk show more than a reaction/analysis show like the Kelly File. In fact, the word "friends" conspicuously appears in the item as well, and Hasselbeck's talk show is called Fox & Friends. Before that she was on another talk show for a decade.
Certainly Hasselbeck would be ruined if it came out that she had an affair, with a married man, who was "notorious womanizer bla bla bla" Donald Trump. There goes her whole trad/con family values brand, and she's forced to eke out a living on the comic con circuit, signing autographs for nerds who bring pictures of her stint on Survivor.
The image in the blind item also looks a lot more like Hasselbeck, showing a newswoman who is more prim and proper, upbeat, and suppressing a grin rather than plastering it across her face like bossypants caricature Megyn Kelly would have done.
(The only other guess at Blind Gossip was Katy Tur, but she was openly Keith Olbermann's cohabiting sex doll, so she could not have been ruined by news of having a fling with Trump.)
Fearing that the intense scrutiny during this spectacle of an election season might turn up the frontrunner's affair with one of the hosts on a show that regularly interviews him, she decided to get out of the limelight as fast as possible, making sure to slather on the "doting mother" imagery for good protective measure before leaving.
Trump has already said that he could walk out into the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and his voters would still remain loyal to him. During one of the debates, Ann Coulter tweeted something to the effect of, "They can start aborting babies in the White House, as long as we fix the immigration problem once and for all". So even if this affair does get picked up by a more mainstream source than a gossip site, with more of the details and credible sourced filled in, it wouldn't even put a dent in Trump's momentum. "Seriously, you banged Hasselbeck? High-five bro!"
I'm putting all this out there to really hammer home the dead-end and corrupting nature of the values conservatism movement. Trump never campaigned on being for family values, anti-abortion, prayer in public schools, etc. Not that he is against all those concepts like the liberals are -- just that this election is not the time and the place for them. Pushing them has gotten us nowhere anyway.
But the movement sure was great for puffing up the status and bank account of icons like Hasselbeck who market themselves aggressively based on their wholesome holier-than-thou persona, while having affairs away from the cameras, not to mention letting someone else raise her kids while they're little, and then claiming her media departure is because her children need mommy by their side.
Who was she, anyway? A reality show contestant, an airheaded Bush cheerleader, and a self-aggrandizing gluten-free evangelist. Sorry, we may be desperate for moral icons, but not that desperate.