Surly Rachel Maddow Is Outraged That Even Liberal ABC Questioned Obama's Comedy Chat

An annoyed Rachel Maddow on Thursday lectured ABC News for daring to question Barack Obama's appearance earlier this week on an internet comedy show. After playing a clip of reporter Jim Avila quizzing Jay Carney on whether the chat program damaged the "the dignity of the office," Maddow labeled this contention "completely and totally wrong." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

She mocked "capital V, capital S, very serious pundit David Gergen" for this tweet: "Unimaginable that Truman, Ike, JFK, Reagan would appear on 'Between Two Ferns.' They carefully projected majesty of their office." According to Maddow, there is precedent because Ronald Reagan appeared on a Bob Hope birthday show and Richard Nixon appeared on Laugh-In. The examples hardly compare. 

Maddow complained, "Sorry, David Gergen, sorry, ABC News, you're completely and totally wrong." 

She insisted: 

RACHEL MADDOW: Behold, here is Ronald Reagan doing a comedy show, as President taking part in comedy birthday specials for both George Burns and Bob Hope.

BOB HOPE:  I want to tell you, Mr. President, with all of the travel and all of the work you have done, you look just great.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: You look great, too.

HOPE: Well, I hope I look that good when I'm your age.

REAGAN: I hope I look that good when I'm your age.

MADDOW: While we're on the subject, consider that President George W. Bush, he wasn't above showing up on a Howie Mandel game show while he was president, and good for him for doing it. And if all of that kind of stuff makes you feel terrible about the dignity of the presidency, first of all, you should probably lighten up. Second of all, though, consider the example of Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon on Laugh In.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, I don't think we could get Mr. Nixon to standstill for a sock it to me.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Sock it to me?

But, of course, Nixon and Reagan weren't trying to promote major policy by bypassing journalists. Nixon wasn't even president when he appeared on Laugh-In during the 1968 campaign. Reagan supporting a show business friend is hardly the same as avoiding journalists while attempting to push ObamaCare. 

Avila aside, much of ABC's coverage fawned over Obama's appearance. On March 11, Good Morning America journalist Lara Spencer swooned, "It's great, you got to check it out. It's – the President also takes time to reach out to young viewers, though, encouraging them to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act."

On March 12, CBS This Morning, co-anchor Gayle King cheered, "Bravo to the President!" 

But for Maddow, one example of a network journalist not totally supporting Obama is apparently one too many. 

A full transcript is below: 


3/13/14

9:53pm ET

RACHEL MADDOW: Hoot-hoot! Debunktion Junction, what's my function? President Obama did this week that was qualitatively unprecedented in terms of degrading the dignity of the White House. Is that true or is that false? ABC News reporter Jim Avila at the White House press briefing this week was clearly making that claim.

JIM AVILA, ABC NEWS: How much discussion was there at the White House about the dignity of the office, how much of the dignity of the office might be lost? This is an interview like no other probably ever done by a president?

MADDOW: No other president has ever done anything like this. Why did President Obama decide to degrade the dignity of the office in this unprecedented way? What ABC News is so upset by is the fact that President Obama showed up on the comedy web show that's called Between Two Ferns. It was basically a stunt to get young people to hear him talk about healthcare.gov, so they'd go to the Web site and maybe sign up for health insurance. As a stunt, it worked. Traffic at Healthcare.gov was up 40 percent the day that Between Two Ferns got posted, and the Between Two Ferns Web site became the number one referral site on the entire Internet for sending people to Healthcare.gov.

But was the cost too high? ABC News says no president has ever done anything like this before. Also, the capital V, capital S, very serious pundit David Gergen, scolded the president even more directly in this tweet. "Unimaginable that Truman, Ike, JFK, Reagan would appear on 'Between Two Ferns.' They carefully projected majesty of their office."

So, are David Gergen and ABC news correct that this appearance on a comedy show was an encroachment on the dignity of the White House? Is that true or is that false? False. Of course it's false. David Gergen says it's outrageous. Ike would never do a comedy show.

Behold, here is Ike doing a comedy show. President Eisenhower appearing on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1955, on an episode on that also featured Abbot and Costello. Ah, okay, maybe Ike did it, but surely Ronald Reagan would never do a comedy show. What was the phrase? He was always carefully protecting the majesty of the office. Reagan would never have done a comedy show.

Behold, here is Ronald Reagan doing a comedy show, as President taking part in comedy birthday specials for both George Burns and Bob Hope.

BOB HOPE:  I want to tell you, Mr. President, with all of the travel and all of the work you have done, you look just great.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: You look great, too.

HOPE: Well, I hope I look that good when I'm your age.

REAGAN: I hope I look that good when I'm your age.

MADDOW: While we're on the subject, consider that President George W. Bush, he wasn't above showing up on a Howie Mandel game show while he was president, and good for him for doing it. And if all of that kind of stuff makes you feel terrible about the dignity of the presidency, first of all, you should probably lighten up. Second of all, though, consider the example of Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon on Laugh In.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, I don't think we could get Mr. Nixon to standstill for a sock it to me.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Sock it to me?

MADDOW: Which makes you feel worse about the dignity of the presidency? The way Richard Nixon told the sock it to me joke on "Laugh In" or what else Richard Nixon did to the dignity of the office of the presidency? Telling jokes are being part of comedy bits not only has generations of precedent among American presidents, it really never has diminished the office. Presidents have to work way, way harder for that distinction. So, sorry, David Gergen, sorry, ABC News, you're completely and totally wrong.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org