The conversation between the women took an intense turn after Anderson, who has on countless occasions declared her support for the WikiLeaks founder, defended him to McCain, 34, when asked about the Ecuadorian Embassy’s decision to revoke its asylum.
“When you visited him, he was allegedly kicked out of the Ecuadorian Embassy because he was defecating everywhere and creating messes,” McCain said to Anderson, who fired back saying, “No, that’s a smear campaign.”
“There was video,” McCain responded.
“What would you do if you were locked in a prison for six years?” Anderson, 52, asked.
“I wouldn’t be a cyber terrorist, which he is,” McCain said back, to which Anderson fired back, “He’s not a cyber terrorist.”
“He hacked information. His leaks included information that put our national security at risk, our military, the lives of spies,” McCain said passionately.
“War crimes need to be punished and they haven’t. The war crimes that he’s exposed, no one’s done anything about it. But they put him in jail to shut him up. And it’s not just America. He’s exposed Russia, he’s exposed all sorts of different countries,” Anderson continued.
Assange, 48, was arrested on April 11 after London’s Ecuadorian Embassy withdrew its asylum and invited in London’s Metropolitan Police.
Assange had taken refuge there for the past seven years, claiming political asylum in order to avoid facing extradition to Sweden over a rape allegation he has long refuted. The alleged hacker is also wanted by the United States for espionage charges in relation to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified information.
The View co-host Joy Behar also raised questions on Assange’s intentions on Friday’s episode, asking Anderson, “A lot of people think Assange conspired with Russia by leaking hacked emails, which hurt Hillary Clinton. Is he responsible for giving us Trump?”
“I can see that because of the timing, but Hillary Clinton is responsible for Trump,” Anderson answered.
Her response promoted prompted Behar, 76, to ask “Is he a Trump supporter?”
“No. No! I was with him. He wasn’t helping Trump, he was trying to tell the American people true information that Hillary Clinton was doing so people could make an educated choice. And I think FBI kind of put the nail in that coffin.”
“But do you mean to tell me he had nothing on Trump?” Behar asked. “If he had something on Trump, he would have put it out there.”
McCain rejoined the conversation arguing, “He released her emails.”
“It was her emails. She wrote them,” Anderson said.
McCain later interjected again, switching the focus to ask, “The question I have though is, spies that go out and put their lives at risk … Classified information, I believe classified for a reason. I do have some faith in the US government, though as a Republican, I have less faith normally than liberals do. So what would you say to the spies who are putting themselves at risk for our national security?”
“There’s nothing that’s proven that he’s putting anybody at risk. They’ve gone through this over and over again. And I think that people like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning are heroes. And Julian Assange is a publisher,” Anderson explained.
“Putin also thinks that,” McCain fired back, with Behar adding, “He put people in danger by refusing to redact sensitive information including social security numbers and other private materials.”
RELATED: WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested in London After 7 Years Sheltered in Ecuadorian Embassy
In an attempt to calm the situation, Whoopi Goldberg then asked Anderson simply to explain what Assange was trying to do. “Because he actually did hurt quite a few people,” Goldberg, 63, said.
“Other people can speak better for him than me, but he believes in justice, he believes in honesty, he believes in exposing governments for what they’re really doing, and people have the right to know what is happening, and there are a lot of awful war crimes that need to be exposed. His whole intention is to stop these senseless wars. War is a business. It doesn’t help us. It doesn’t help anybody. And a lot of people — people in France, people in Canada — aren’t too happy with America and how they meddle into everybody’s business and start all these senseless wars.”
“But he’s meddling in everybody’s business,” Behar said.
“He’s not saying his opinions, he’s just giving you the information. He’s a publisher who supports whistleblowers,” Anderson said in defense of him.
However, McCain still wasn’t buying it as she yelled out, “He’s a cyber terrorist! I’ll say it. No. I’m not going to stand by this. It’s ridiculous.”
In May, Anderson and WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson visited Assange at Belmarsh Prison in London just one month after his arrest.
“Obviously it’s been very difficult to see Julian here and to make our way through the prison to get to him was quite shocking and difficult,” Anderson told reporters afterward, according to CNN. “He does not deserve to be in a super-max prison … He is an innocent person.”
Anderson said Assange is “cut off from everybody” and has been stripped of access to libraries and computers, leaving him unable to speak to his children.
“Public support is very important, fundraising is very important,” she said. “Justice will depend on public support and he’s a good man. He’s an incredible person. I love him. I can’t imagine what he’s been going through, and to see him was … great to see him, but this is just misrule of law and operation.”
Hrafnsson said the pair’s visit was Assange’s first social visit since his arrest, and that he spends 23 hours a day in his cell in Belmarsh.
Anderson has long been a friend and supporter of Assange and was first spotted visiting him in October 2016.
A month later, her publicist told PEOPLE in a statement that she’d visited him multiple times and “likes to make him smile.”
She played coy when asked about the nature of their relationship in April 2017, telling PEOPLE: “I understand that our ‘affair’ and the curiosity surrounding that might bring some attention to his situation. That’s fine, but I’d rather not go into private details. Let’s just say everyone deserves love.”