SALT LAKE CITY — Abby Huntsman, 33, announced Monday that she is leaving her job as a co-host on ABC’s “The View” to help her father, former ambassador Jon Huntsman, with his campaign for Utah governor.
For two seasons on the show, Huntsman, who grew up in Utah, represented a moderate, voice among hosts like the more conservative Meghan McCain and more liberal Sunny Hostin, Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg. In weekday episodes that often grew heated, they debated topics ranging from football players kneeling during the national anthem to the 2020 presidential race. Huntsman said staking out a middle ground became tiring and is part of what led her to leave the show to help her father run for a third term as governor.
Abby Huntsman last talked to the Deseret News following her first episode on Sept. 4, 2018. At the time, she was transitioning from a job at “Fox & Friends” and had one 9-month old daughter. While working at “The View,” Huntsman gave birth to twins and now has three kids ages 2 and under.
She said that being a mother was an asset on “The View” because it helped her relate to other women. “I don’t think I could do this job without experiencing motherhood,” she told the Deseret News.
Now Huntsman said she wants to step back from national television to work as a senior adviser to her father’s gubernatorial campaign. She recalls fond memories of attending campaign events when her father first ran for governor in 2005 and she was a senior at East High School in Salt Lake City and later helping him with communication tasks, like tweeting, during his 2012 bid for president.
Huntsman spoke with the Deseret News about her decision to leave television and put her family and personal happiness first. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Deseret News: On “The View,” you have been a moderate, conservative voice and have had to defend yourself from both sides. Did that become exhausting?
Abby Huntsman: Sitting on the national TV stage, talking about our tit for tat in Washington D.C., it can get tired after a while. It really can. And I just found, it wasn’t fun for me anymore.
I enjoyed having that center-right voice, but at the same time, everything is to extremes today. You’ve got the extreme right and extreme left. Sometimes you feel like you are talking to yourself. I’ll go out places and I’ll hear, “You speak for me. That’s my voice.” But those people aren’t the ones who are shouting on Twitter. We are not talking to each other anymore. We are talking right past one another, and if you disagree, it’s not that’s a different idea, it’s that you’re just stupid and you don’t understand.
DN: Some news outlets have reported on tension between the various co-hosts on “The View.” What was the dynamic really like been behind the scenes?
AH: The show is made is for drama. It did get fiery and that will continue. Honestly, it is a lot to sit there and have to do that every day. Some people are just not naturally made to argue all day long, but I am not. I did grow so much, and I do love to disagree. I think it’s fun to have those moments, but sometimes it can get tough.
So is every report true about the show? No. I have good relations with everyone on that show. Meghan McCain was a friend well before the show and will be a friend well after the show. I sat between Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar every day. I mean talk about a great gig! I learned so much from them.
DN: How did you decide to leave “The View?”
AH: It was over the holiday break. I thought about what it will be like a year from now when my dad’s race has passed. No matter what happens in the race, I don’t think I would ever forgive myself for not being there and helping him. Because that’s what we do as a family. We always rally together during these times. I feel like my parents have given me so much and have pushed me to really go after my dreams at a young age. They were always so supportive of me and never asked for anything in return. As part of that, they really taught me to value family and my roots. Utah is where I was raised. That’s where I went to school, and that’s where I learned everything about life.
“The View” has always been a dream job, and in many ways it was that. But ultimately, you learn as you get older where you need to be that’s going to make you the most happy. Honestly, now that I’ve made the announcement, I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t be more excited to get to Utah and help.
DN: How did your father invite you to come join the campaign?
AH: He asked me not ever thinking I would say yes. I remember I texted him and I said, “Hey, what do you think about me coming to help with the campaign?” and I just got a response that was like, “No way!” with an exclamation point. He called me two seconds later and said, “You’re not serious. You’re not actually going to do this for me.” And I said, “No, I actually am.” When I landed (in Salt Lake) over the weekend, he had a tear in his eye. Seeing him and seeing my mom, it was just such a comfort, and I realized at that point, it wasn’t a tough decision anymore at all. It was the right one.
DN: What exactly will you do for the campaign as a senior adviser?
AH: My dad and I have always had this unique relationship where we listen to each other and respect each other. He’s always the first person I call when I have a question, or if there’s a topic on “The View” that I don’t know how to talk about without getting in trouble. He makes so much sense. He always brings it back to reality and why we should care or not care about something. I’ve always been like the little girl, but as I get older, it’s really become a friendship and a respectful relationship.
Communications is something I’ve worked on my whole adult life, so helping with messaging is going to be key. (Huntsman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and communications and went on to work for HuffPost, MSNBC, Fox and most recently, ABC) I’m going to be sort of the person in his ear a lot. He’s good because he can push back, and I can push back on him. I’m not afraid to tell him, “That’s not a good idea.” We have a really good relationship that way.
DN: Not many people can say they have three kids ages 2 and under. How much did your family factor into your decision to change jobs?
AH: Our life has completely changed in two years. People are like, “How can you leave this big TV gig? You have this huge platform, and it’s the biggest show in daytime television right now.” That’s all great, but as soon as you have a kid, you realize you love something so much more than you love yourself, and those things don’t matter the way they once did. For me, I don’t need to sit in front of the cameras. I don’t need any of that. I will miss the job because I felt so lucky to have a voice, but my kids are what makes me happy. My husband is what makes me happy. I want to make sure that I’m giving them a good upbringing and hopefully I can teach them a lesson one day of following your dreams and not being afraid to take a risk because you know in your heart that’s what you need to do.
- Abby Huntsman, 33, with her husband, Jeffrey Bruce Livingston, and kids Isabel, William and Ruby. Provided by Abby Huntsman
- Abby Huntsman, 33, with her twin babies, Ruby and William. Provided by Abby Huntsman
- Abby Huntsman, 33, with her husband, Jeffrey Bruce Livingston, their golden retriever and kids William, Ruby and Isabel. Provided by Abby Huntsman
DN: The field of candidates for Utah’s governor is somewhat crowded and some people say your father is not conservative enough. What do you think about that?
AH: He is conservative on a lot of issues. I think he’s a perfect example of why we don’t need a litmus test. He’s been a lifelong Republican and always will be. He’s pro-life. He’s all the things that I think make him a strong Republican. But does he look to the future and say how can we look at something differently? How can we make sure that everyone is feeling represented? Yes. He was one of the first governors to come out for civil unions for example. He made the argument that this is about family values. He’s all about pushing the envelope, and I think that’s what Utah is. Utah is such a mix of people, and there are a lot of people who are right where he is politically.
DN: Why do you think your father asked you to join the campaign? Do you think that you are going to be able to lend some additional star power with your TV experience?
AH: I hope to bring a confidence. Having people around you who will push you to be your best is such a healthy thing on a campaign. I don’t want people to think me of bringing as star power. If anything, I want to bring the experience I’ve learned throughout my whole life.
It’s just a reminder that in life, family really is the most important thing. I realize that more than ever with my kids and my husband. You push for your dreams, but at the end of the day, if you can have anything it is family. That’s who’s going to be there to support you and to have your best interest at heart, and in politics, you need people who will have your best interest at heart. I think now his campaign is all about having good people around him, being just totally authentically him, and bringing some of his good experience to Utah.