DAILY SHOW: The Atlantic discusses the Betsy McCaughey interview

The interview on Monday night with the woman who invented the phrase “Death Panels”, Betsy McCaughey, was an excellent example of why Jon Stewart is considered one of the leading newsmen of his generation. The Atlantic featured two different discussions about the subject in the past few days. First, author James Fallows discusses some of the conclusions that can be reached by watching the interview. He mentions that the interview cemented in his mind that McCaughey is in fact a taco short of a combination plate, that McCaughey proved that an actual “effective” way to deal with Stewart’s arguments is with your own nudge and wink to the audience (and to totally ignore all facts presented by Stewart in the process), and finally, that McCaughey shows the inconsistencies in focusing on perceived issues like “death panels” without looking at the entire bill.

His article produced some interesting discourse on what others took out of the interview. Here’s one of my favorite of the selections that Fallows chose to highlight in a follow up column online:

Objection 1: The Audience Is In on the Joke

…I disagree that talking over Jon Stewart the way people do in appearances on Fox News is an effective tactic for the guest. It might be better than some of the other options, but it backfires for a weird reason, one that might be harder to see if you don’t watch the show regularly.

From its inception in 1997, the distinguishing shtick that makes the show unique is a type of edited interview segment in which the show’s “reporters” interview obscure and completely crazy people. The subjects have received some local press attention for doing something bizarre and they’re desperate for media attention. The reporters pretend to be mainstream press rather than comedians, and they use a deadpan style that allows the interviewees to provide most of the humor. What struck me about the McCaughey interview, and the recent interview of Orly Taitz by Stephen Colbert, was that Stewart and Colbert are clearly adapting the “crazy person” interview techniques to their live in-studio host interviews with guests that don’t agree with them.

The normal host interviews vary a lot but they are always a two-way conversation with some socially well-adjusted give and take. In these two recent interviews, as the guest acts more unstoppable and enthusiastic unhinged when discussing “their” topic, the interview slides into the familiar “crazy person” style. That’s a cue for the show’s regular audience to frame the discussion and the interviewee in a very different way.

Here’s the two-part extended video for your viewing pleasure.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Betsy McCaughey Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Betsy McCaughey Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests


  1. MaryLovesColbert says:

    I see what Fallows is trying to say about her response to Jon – that because she didn’t raise her voice or act like a jerk (as other guests have done), Jon didn’t get the same kind of interview he usually gets from people who are so very wrong in what they’re saying. I found it a little pathetic, though, that she kept turning to the audience and almost trying to appeal to them, trying to show how “silly” Jon was. Doesn’t she know the audience is most likely going to be on his side? I don’t know – I think it was a brilliant interview, and Jon definitely came out looking better than she did – as he usually does in this case. :)

  2. I honestly almost felt embarrassed for her. She was so condescending though, I’m glad she got no response from the audience whenever she tried to be clever.

    • I feel the complete opposite for her.
      She was condescending, backpedaling, ignoring Jon’s requests for evidence, and ignoring Jon altogether for about a third of it.

  3. EvilDevil says:


    …then she quit the day after the interview… she pulled a “Palin”

  4. She’s an idiot. She’s intentionally misleading people who she knows will believe every word she says, and I’m glad that came through so clearly in the interview.

    In other, unrelated news, I’m excited because I made it into the Bugle this week. Whoo!

    ReCaptcha: dorky 6f… hey!

  5. mrtigger001 says:

    hey DB, if you want to post the full interview, the full interview goes like this:

    1. Interview (Regular) Part 1
    2. Interview (Extended) Part 1
    3. Interview (Extended) Part 2

    The producers must have uploaded it in a hurry because the labelling is obviously a little abnormal, so it’s not really your fault.

    I did feel Betsy was trying to pander & condescend like crazy, which was INCREDIBLY awkward considering that the TDS audience has basically been groomed to be skeptical to that sort of thing. In terms of whether she “disarmed” Jon, it was not so much a disarming as it was basically just not engaging. If you try to engage with Jon on a logical level, 95% of the time you’ll lose or stalemate. The only way you don’t lose is to not engage on a logical level, which is what Betsy did.

    What she did is actually not unprecedented; Bill O’Reilly on his last interview on TDS (the “panda bear” one) didn’t engage in a logical conversation and chose to go the name-calling route (“greenwich village opinion”). It’s because he chose not to engage that the discourse went nowhere that night, and that’s what happened tonight.

  6. The only thing I got out of that interview is that the audience that night was awesome (By not acknowledging her when she was attempting to be clever) and that she isn’t clever.
    Jon PWN’D her. Big time.

  7. There is a great deal of forum discussion about this here http://forum.thedailyshow.com/tds/ including a thread about Rachel Madow covering The Daily Show ‘giving Betsy attention.’


  8. oh gosh, that interview was so weird. I understand what she is trying to do, but it’s totally ludicrous. I did not like when she kept patting at Jon and saying how silly he was, it was terribly obnoxious. I was glad he didn’t really even engage her as much as usual, and he seemed so unhappy to be near her. (who wouldn’t be.) I think the point made in the quote DB chose is so obvious to regular viewers of TDS or TCR you don’t even have to stop and think how to approach the interview, you knew it was going to be a weirdo-person one.

    btw, one of the other comments in the online response section mentioned the Spice Girls interview and Posh Spice having a problem with Jon. I just watched that one, and it’s crazy how much she isn’t connecting to anything Jon is doing. I don’t think it’s all that similar to this most recent interview, though, because Victoria Beckham just seemed inexplicably confused.

    • MaryLovesColbert says:

      Haha! I’d never seen that interview with the Spice Girls – she really didn’t know what was going on! :P

  9. I hated her finger pointing/waving and her voice. She was so theatrical. She walked out there with a huge binder with no bookmarks or tabs or tape flags or Post-its to find the sections in the bill she claims she has problems with. She was unprepared and desperate and uninformed and stubborn.

    I agree, she was condescending. Jezebel calls it the Palin model for political discourse.

    • TruthPower says:

      Yes I agree. She was not prepared for the interview at all. She made herself appear very unprofessional as well. That interview was horrible.

If you're new to our Zoner community, please read the No Fact Zone Comment Policy before commenting. Thank you!