John McCain’s campaign suspension got off to a rocky start Wednesday when David Letterman caught the Arizona senator in a lie after McCain cancelled a scheduled appearance on the Late Show claiming he had to jump on an airplane to save the economy. About halfway through the show, Letterman’s producers noticed a live feed of CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric starting an interview with the presidential candidate down the block.
Before Letterman realized he’d been deceived, he lashed McCain for suspending the campaign with shades of the “walk and chew gum at the same time” ribbing the move took from other quarters. “If I drop dead right now, hand to God,” the late night comedian said, “Paul’s taking over the show.”
“When you call up at the last minute and cancel a show,” Letterman told his audience during the Wednesday afternoon taping, “that really smells.”
Excerpts from Letterman’s rant quickly made their way around the Internet:
Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, “You don’t suspend your campaign. This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves.” And he joked: “I think someone’s putting something in his Metamucil.”
“He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second-string quarterback, Sarah Palin. Where is she?”
“What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!”
But then, after getting word McCain was, in fact, still in town and about to tape an interview, Letterman got angry. “”We’re suspending the campaign. Are we suspending it because there’s an economic crisis, or because the poll numbers are sliding?”
Interrupting his interview with substitute guest Keith Olbermann, Letterman has the control room air the live feed from McCain’s interview prep with Couric and asks, “”Hey John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?”
Entertainment industry blogger Nikki Finke has the backstory:
… the senator himself called Letterman to explain, “I have to go back and fix the economy. I’m going to get on a plane now and go.” The show scrambled and at the last minute booked Keith Olbermann. When it was time for tonight’s taping, Letterman explained to the cameras why McCain was a no-show and even had nice things to say about the guy. That is, until the behind the scenes people in The Late Show control room were shocked to see a live feed of McCain being miked in Katie Couric’s CBS News studio at the same time he was supposed to be in Dave’s studio. Letterman was informed of this during the commercial break, and, when the show came back, ordered the control room to cut to the live McCain/Couric feed. Then Letterman bashed McCain for not being honest. “He doesn’t seem to be racing back to the airport, does he?” Letterman asked the audience.