Memo to the McCain campaign: Don’t blow off David Letterman.
The “Late Show” host lit into Republican presidential nominee John McCain Wednesday after Sen. McCain canceled his appearance on the show, telling Letterman he was suspending his campaign to go to Washington to deal with the nation’s financial crisis.
McCain spokeswoman Nicole Wallace said Thursday that the campaign “felt this wasn't a night for comedy.”
Letterman initially called McCain “an honest-to-God hero” and several times during his opening comments expressed his admiration for McCain. Recounting McCain’s years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, he said, “That’s why we love this man.”
But Letterman also criticized McCain for suspending his campaign, saying that while he’s in Washington, his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, should continue campaigning.
“I’m more than a little disappointed by this behavior,” Letterman said. “We’re suspending the campaign. Suspending it because there’s an economic crisis, or because the poll numbers are sliding?
“This doesn’t smell right,” Letterman continued. “Because this is not the way a tested hero behaves. I think someone's put something in his Metamucil.”
Later in the show, while talking with substitute guest Keith Olbermann of MSNBC’s “Countdown,” Letterman learned that instead of rushing to Washington, McCain was only five blocks away in Manhattan, preparing for an interview with Katie Couric. As his show displayed video feed of McCain with Couric, Letterman exclaimed: “He doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he? Hey, John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?”
McCain has been a favorite guest of Letterman’s, making 12 appearances over the years. Last year, the senator from Arizona announced his candidacy for president on “Late Show.” At the end of his rant, Letterman wondered aloud if McCain would ever come back again.
“Not after the drubbing you just gave him,” quipped band leader Paul Shaffer.
Letterman has engaged in some famous feuds over the years, including one of 16 years’ duration with Oprah Winfrey and another with rival late-night host Jay Leno. He has also sparred with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. Letterman is often self-deprecating, but he does not like being dismissed.
“We’re in sorry need and short supply of actual heroes like John McCain,” Letterman said early in his show. “But when you call up at the last minute and cancel a show … This is not the John McCain I know, by God. It makes me believe something is going haywire with the campaign. Someone got to him and said, ‘Blow Letterman off, he’s a lightweight.’ ”
But on TODAY, McCain spokeswoman Wallace said, “We deeply regret offending Mr. Letterman, but our candidate's priority at this moment is to focus on this crisis.”