It’s a “pinch myself every day” kind of gig, says the 33-year-old former press secretary for Mike Pence and White House director of strategic communications for the Trump administration, from which she resigned in December 2020. She also testified before the Jan. 6 congressional hearings in June, and put former aide Cassidy Hutchinson in touch with Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee's vice-chairman, according to Farah Griffin.
In August, "The View" named Farah Griffin and Ana Navarro co-hosts to fill the show’s traditionally conservative seat vacated by Meghan McCain. They join Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, Sara Haines and Sunny Hostin.
“I keep saying to my husband (Justin Griffin), I'm not going to the Pentagon today,” Farah Griffin, also a former press secretary for the Department of Defense, says with a laugh. “The View” offers fashion, a hair and makeup team and challenges Farah Griffin to move out of a spokesperson role, she says.
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At the Department of Defense, the Los Angeles native was taught that whatever she said “could spark an international conflict. You have to be so careful and decisive with your words, and you're often speaking on extremely heavy topics and extremely complex topics. So I operated in those roles from a position of, first and foremost, do no harm, and it was about giving as much information to the public as they need, that's relevant to different things happening. This is the opposite, where we're told, 'Spill your guts, share personal things, go off the cuff.'”
To help, she worked with a personal media coach. She also received advice from Abby Huntsman, a conservative voice on the show from 2018-20, who said, “Enjoy every minute. It is the most exciting season of life and opportunity.”
Goldberg, the show's moderator, also had a suggestion: “She jokes with me, reminding me, ‘Don't read the comments. Turn it off. Do not listen to the haters,’” says Farah Griffin. "And it's really meant a lot to me. I hear Whoopi in my head when I start doom scrolling and I'm like, “Why am I doing this?” I don't need those people's opinion.”
Farah Griffin addresses the media scrutiny, reveals her first-day nerves and her biggest challenge as a cohost. (Edited for length and clarity.)
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Question: How was your first day?
Alyssa Farah Griffin: I guest-hosted over two dozen times, and I got so nervous when I walked out. Once we get into Hot Topics, there’s so much to talk about, that you just have to get right in there. (We’ve) had such great guests. My first week (we) had Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, which was fascinating for me. As a lifelong Republican who campaigned against Hillary, it was really cool to see her in a different way than I think a lot of people get to. She was so much more laid back, warm, funny, even self-deprecating.
Something that I learned from my previous role in the Trump administration is we can be a little bit reductive in our politics. I was guilty of this in a lot of my career, where you put on a jersey, red or blue, and that's the team you're fighting for. In my experience, whether it's working in the Secretary of Defense’s office or briefing the president in the Oval Office, the issues that rise to that level are so complicated, they're never going to be solved on purely partisan lines. So I try to have a more just open-minded approach when I meet people in public life.
You were nervous on your first day. How have you felt in the days since?
I'm getting a lot more comfortable. We have five women at a table who are highly opinionated, never have a shortage of things to say, and to make sure that you're able to get in with your viewpoint, it's a learning curve. So I'm taking cues from the other women. Sunny Hostin’s extremely assertive, and it's something she has a real talent for it, and I see how she commands a table and commands the audience.
Were you hesitant at all about filling the show’s conservative seat?
To me, it was such a phenomenal opportunity. There was really no hesitation on my end. The show is an incredibly powerful platform. We have millions of people who tune in. (The show averaged 2.2 million viewers in its first three weeks of the new season, Nielsen says.) I'm a viewer for many years, so I was pretty clear-eyed about what I was going into, and there are definitely days where I'm like, “Oof, the news cycle is not in my favor. I'm going to be the only person with a different viewpoint, and everyone’s going to come armed to disagree.” But that's the role, and I'm honored to have it.
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What aspect of the job have you found most challenging?
The most challenging is talking about a complex topic in a time-limited fashion. That's the biggest thing, because I want to do well by the subject matter at hand, and I want to give heavier topics, especially, the attention and the time and the thoughtfulness they deserve. And that's not a challenge specific to "The View." That's television in general, but if there has ever been a day I'm kicking myself when leaving, it's that I didn't maybe offer enough on an important subject.
You’ve been at the job for three weeks, and outlets are already writing about Hot Topic debates with your colleagues. Why do you think so much has been written about co-host relationships over the years?
There are some (media outlets) that like to pit the hosts against each other. It's just not how I feel. We can have very heated debates on the stage, but I've seen every woman that I work with able to leave the disagreement at the table and then go back to connecting on a human level. And frankly, that's something that's a lost art in American life, frankly, in the Trump era. Sometimes we laugh backstage because we'll see a headline, ‘So and so is feuding,’ and we're like, 'That's just not happening.'"
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Last week, when cohosts were debating how to reform the Republican Party, Hostin said to you, “You certainly were complicit; you worked there.” Is it hard for you to continuously be associated with the administration?
It's not unexpected. I don't tend to make things personal in how I address my viewpoint, but I've got like reptilian-thick skin. If things are lobbed at me, I can defend my career, I can defend the policies I've worked on, I can defend my viewpoint. So it's reminding my hosts what my role is, what I did in the Trump administration and where I spoke out and where I fervently continue to speak out. There's no one at that table who's been attacked by Donald Trump, I don't think, more than me. Maybe Joy. But he's come after me by name many times. So somebody is going to have a hard time trying to paint me as a Trump lackey. But it ends up opening up good conversations.
Why did you resign from the Trump administration?
I thought it was important symbolically to signal to the public we lost (and that) there's going to be a transition of power. I was the senior-most White House official to resign after the election loss, and I never could have imagined that things would go the direction they did with Jan. 6 and the lies and the efforts around that and the pressure campaign against my former boss, Mike Pence. But I did worry that even sticking around when people around Trump were espousing lies about the election results was just not something I could put my name to, and I wanted to very publicly show that.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The View: Alyssa Farah Griffin's biggest challenge, Whoopi's advice