"Hi! Is this Mary Todd Lincoln? It is? Sorry for waking up before 6 A.M. but this is Ashleigh Banfield of Early Start and I just want you to know we are live on the air so, please, No F-bombs. Hee! Hee! Anyway, I know how much you love watching plays so I want to ask if you are still haunted by the assassination of your husband who was sitting right next to you at Ford's Theater."
Is this some sort of sick fantasy on the part of your humble correspondent? Not really because that is pretty much the tone of the prank phone call made by Ashleigh Banfield on the inaugural CNN Early Start show last week when she woke up Kerry Kennedy to ask if she is still haunted by memories of the assassination of her father, Robert F. Kennedy, which you can see in the video below the fold.
Here is the transcript of the prank phone call as Banfield effortlessly slips from chirpy cheerfulness to utter morbidity without the slightest sense of ironic self-awareness:
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: ...So, basically, on occasion, on this program, as we move forward and try out crazy ideas, essentially, we're going to wake some poor soul up. Somebody who's really connected to the news in some way, but really has no idea that -- we're basically exercising our Rolodexes is what I'm telling you.
BANFIELD: And we decided today's rolodex would be Kerry Kennedy.
BANFIELD: I hope she actually is awake. OK, this is getting embarrassing.
She's going to answer. I'm sure she will.
BANFIELD: Come on, Kerry. Come on.
VOICE OF KERRY KENNEDY, ESTABLISHED RFK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN 1988: Hello.
BANFIELD: Hi. Is Kerry there?
KENNEDY: Yes, this is me.
BANFIELD: Hi, Kerry. It's Ashleigh Banfield calling.
KENNEDY: Good morning, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: You're on the air so no "F" bombs.
BANFIELD: How are you?
KENNEDY: I'm OK.
BANFIELD: I'm doing my best to imitate Howard Stern by calling you and waking you up, but you know what, I wanted to call you particularly on our inaugural show because we're really sort of on the eve of the big political kickoff with Iowa tomorrow, and I wanted to know what it was like for you in the political dynasty that you grew up in with all of the campaigns that you've gone through.
I did a quick piece of math, and I think it's like one, two, three, four, five, six, seven members of your family have been in elected office. Is that right?
KENNEDY: Oh, I've never counted.
BANFIELD: You had to do --
BANFIELD: You had to do -- so, what was it like going through all the campaigns that you did? We're seeing some beautiful pictures of your father, so handsome and so endearing, and it was such a tragic story in his campaign, and I just wanted to know what it was like going through these campaigns for you.
KENNEDY: Well, you know, we just loved -- I have great memories of campaigning with him around New York and then across the country, of course, when he was running for president. He took us everywhere and he made an enormous effort to make it a good time for the kids. So, we went to the Bronx Zoo. We camped (INAUDIBLE) riding on little ponies and --
BANFIELD: You were eight years old when he was killed, right?
KENNEDY: I was eight, yes.
BANFIELD: And do you still have haunting memories of every campaign?
KENNEDY: Well -- haunting, did you say?
BANFIELD: Haunting memories. I mean, this has --
KENNEDY: Yes. I mean, I have great memories of him, and I think that it's an amazing thing to be through campaigns because you get to see parts of the country or parts of the city that you would never, you know, that you wouldn't normally see, and people invite you into their homes, and they talk about the problems that they see in their daily lives, you know?
BANFIELD: I want to really just quickly, I have 30 seconds left, but I definitely want to ask you about the RFK Foundation you've been so intricate in working on projects for children and education and give me a quick 15-second tease on what you've been up to the RFK Foundation and the work it's doing.
KENNEDY: Well, we have the, of course, power to education program curriculum for middle and high school students and that -- and that's available online to anybody interested in learning about human right, not just (INAUDIBLE) but also the practice. We invite everybody to come look at our website, rfkcenter.org.
BANFIELD: You are the bomb, my friend. And can I just tell you that when you wake up, you sound a little like me and also Demi Moore in the mornings.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Kerry, thank you, sweetie pie.
KENNEDY: OK. Take care.
BANFIELD: Talk to you soon, I hope, at a later hour.
KENNEDY: OK, thanks.
BANFIELD: That's great.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN: She has a rather sexy voice. She's good.
BANFIELD: Very Demi Moore.
This segment inevitably led to Jon Stewart mercilessly but accurately savaging the interview on the Daily Show.
It turns out that upon reflection, Ashleigh Banfield was devastated. Not by the highly inappropriate awkward prank phone call interview with Kerry Kennedy. No, she was upset that her hero Jon Stewart slammed her. Banfield, along with her co-host Zoraida Zambolin desperately attempt to put a happy face over the criticism but it doesn't really work as you can see in this transcript of yesterday's Early Start show:
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: ...So, there's something else that's trending on buzz feed. A certain "Daily Show" clip. I'm just going to say it right now. Jon Stewart, up until yesterday, you were my hero, and now, I'm devastated that you ripped on us.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN: He's still my hero. Can we watch?
BANFIELD: No, we cannot watch. Oh, there they go. So, Jon Stewart rips on us --
BANFIELD: -- calls it waking bad our wakeup segment, and I'll have you know, Mr. Stewart, you're not the only man who's allowed to have fun on TV. It is five o'clock in the morning.
SAMBOLIN: I want his phone number. He would be so much fun to call in the morning. So, if you happen to be watching, if you're people are watching --
BANFIELD: The first thing I thought was, I'm going to wake him up.
SAMBOLIN: We're going to find a way.
BANFIELD: I could not believe he did it. He was so mean. It was in fun. The editing was all that (ph).
SAMBOLIN: My mom says that if somebody's talking about you, it's always good. It's all good.
BANFIELD: But I mean, it's kind of like, you know, Stewart, if you're watching this, it's like superman telling you, you suck. OK? That's what it was like.
BANFIELD: I really do love you, and I was so upset.
SAMBOLIN: Greatest form of flattery.
BANFIELD: It is. You're absolutely right.
So what are you going to do, Ashleigh? Wake up Jon Stewart with a prank call to ask him if he is still haunted by the death of a close relative? Oh, and when you make that call, don't forget to keep your voice in the chirpy mode.