CNN’s Iranian-born chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, during the network’s post-debate coverage, made fun of John McCain’s stumble during the debate concerning the pronunciation of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s name [see video at right]: "On sort of a cosmetic level, I was quite -- I sort of giggled a little bit when I saw John McCain stumble over Ahmadinejad's name." Almost simultaneously, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann brought up the very same issue with his liberal counterpart Rachel Maddow, who went on to state that the flub "probably does hurt him [McCain] pretty badly."
Amanpour made her statement as she was giving her analysis of the debate during a round table discussion involving most of CNN’s regular political team. Co-host Anderson Cooper stopped her before she could continue on her "cosmetic" note and replied, "Yeah, it's not really fair though. I mean, people make mistakes all the time." Correspondent Michael Ware tried to interject, but Amanpour shot back and replied, "If it's fair for anybody, why not? I mean, if I stumbled, it would be [a] fair comment."
[For audio of the exchange between Amanpour and Cooper, click here.]
Olbermann brought up McCain’s slip-up at nearly the same point in time as Amanpour did, about 10 minutes into the 11 pm Eastern hour of the post-debate Countdown program. He asked Maddow, "What happens when you -- when you make mistakes like the inability -- and you and I both know this very well -- it's a very tough name to pronounce, Ahmadinejad." As Maddow nodded her head in agreement to this sentiment, he continued: "But if you then get the name of the President of Pakistan wrong and call his country a failed state, and then sort of -- just sort of let slide this idea, we're never going to torture again, parentheses -- anybody at home watching, we must have tortured before. Did he -- did he seem to be the master of international affairs, and Obama the novice, or maybe the other way around?"
Maddow responded by lauding Obama’s debate performance:
MADDOW: Well, I think that there was such high expectations for McCain in terms of getting everything right on foreign policy, because is supposed to be -- that's supposed to be his wheelhouse; that's supposed to be the place from which he has the greatest strength. So getting a few things wrong there, even it is mispronouncing a difficult name, probably does hurt him pretty badly. Barack Obama didn't have any obvious gaffes of those kinds. But honestly, I think because this is the first of three debates; because it was very long and very dense, and had no breaks -- probably the way most people are going to interpret this is with the juiciest sound bites that get played over and over again, and honestly I think the juiciest sound bites in this debate were attacks by Barack Obama against John McCain. When he said over and over again -- on Iraq, you were wrong. You said we would be greeted as liberators -- you were wrong. You said it would be easy -- you were wrong. That was probably the best sound bite of the entire night. That may be the thing that lives on past this debate.