Reporting on McCain's Late Show appearance, MSNBC's Hall omitted Letterman's reference to Liddy-McCain link

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

MSNBC's Tamron Hall aired a clip of Sen. John McCain apologizing on CBS' Late Show for having canceled an earlier planned appearance and reported on McCain's attack on Sen. Barack Obama for his association with William Ayers. But Hall failed to note that Late Show host David Letterman questioned McCain on his association with G. Gordon Liddy.

During the October 17 edition of MSNBC Live, host Tamron Hall aired a clip of Sen. John McCain apologizing on CBS' Late Show for having canceled an earlier planned appearance and immediately afterwards reported on McCain's attack on Sen. Barack Obama for his association with former Weather Underground member William Ayers. But at no point did Hall note that Late Show host David Letterman questioned McCain on his association with G. Gordon Liddy, even though Letterman at one point asked McCain: "But you understand that the same case could be made of your relationship with him [Liddy] as is being made with William Ayers?"

As Media Matters for America has noted, Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in "if necessary"; plotting to kill journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a "gangland figure" to kill Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap "leftist guerillas" at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.) During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents and also reportedly said he had named his shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Liddy has donated $5,000 to McCain's campaigns since 1998, including $1,000 in February 2008. In addition, McCain has appeared on Liddy's radio show during the presidential campaign, including as recently as May. Additionally, in 1998, Liddy reportedly held a fundraiser at his home for McCain. Liddy was reportedly scheduled to speak at another fundraiser for McCain in 2000, but the speech was reportedly canceled due to bad weather.

Hall reported that McCain "got grilled by David Letterman just hours earlier for famously canceling his appearance back in late September. Well, Letterman brought it up, night after night, forcing, some say, Senator McCain to show up and take the heat in person." She then aired a clip of McCain and Letterman discussing his cancellation. Immediately after airing the clip, Hall said: "Well, don't be fooled into thinking either Obama or McCain would let humor get in the way of this tough campaign. McCain pushed Obama to explain his ties to '60s radical Bill Ayers back in the debate. Well, now, the McCain campaign is keeping the pressure on by placing robocalls like this one to voters in targeted states. Take a listen." She then aired the following segment of the robocall: "Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers."

However, Hall did not note that after questioning McCain about his campaign's attacks on Obama for his association with Ayers, Letterman asked: "Did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?" Later, McCain stated: "You say I know Gordon Liddy. I -- he paid his debt. He went to prison. He paid his debt as people do. I'm not in any way embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy, and his son who is also a good friend and supporter of mine." Letterman responded: "But you understand that the same case could be made of your relationship with him as is being made with William Ayers?" To which McCain replied: "I -- everything about any relationship that I've ever had I will make completely open and give a complete accounting of."

During a later segment in the 9 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live, before airing other portions of McCain's Late Show appearance, Hall said to stand-up comic Chuck Nice, "Give [McCain] props. He went on there despite the fact that he'd been skewered by Letterman leading up to it." Again, Hall did not note Letterman's inquiry regarding McCain's association with Liddy.

From the October 16 edition of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman:

LETTERMAN: Now, she's also -- I think she's the one who says that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists. Has she in fact said that at rallies and stuff?

McCAIN: I don't -- yes -- and he did, and --

LETTERMAN: To terrorists -- like who did she --

McCAIN: -- and refused --

LETTERMAN: -- who did he --

McCAIN: -- and refused to acknowledge the fact --

LETTERMAN: Who did he pal around with other than --

McCAIN: William Ayers, who said on 9-11 that he wished he had bombed more, OK. His wife was on the top 10 of the most -- FBI most wanted list.

LETTERMAN: Right, but this all took place when he was an active --

McCAIN: It didn't -- in 2000 --

LETTERMAN: -- with the Weathermen, when Barack Obama was 8 years old, isn't it?

McCAIN: Eight years old, and Mr. Ayres on 2001 -- September 11, 2001 -- said I wish I had bombed more. OK.

LETTERMAN: But what is the --

McCAIN: It's an unrepentant --

LETTERMAN: -- what is their relationship, John? What is their relationship?

McCAIN: That's what -- that's all we need to know.

LETTERMAN: No, no. But it --

McCAIN: That's what so -- Senator Clinton said. We need to know about the relationship. First he said he was just a guy in the neighborhood. And so, it's a matter of trusting the word of someone.

LETTERMAN: I know --

McCAIN: That's all.

LETTERMAN: -- but you will also admit that we cannot really control who we interact with in our lives 100 percent. I mean, you have -- you have --

McCAIN: For how long we interact with them and how we interact with them.

LETTERMAN: But you have --

McCAIN: But the point is -- the point in this campaign is --

LETTERMAN: You had a --

McCAIN: -- the economy, and the economy, and the economy.

LETTERMAN: Did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?

McCAIN: I've met him. You know, I mean, I never --

LETTERMAN: Did you attend a fundraiser at his house?

McCAIN: Gordon Liddy's?

PAUL SHAFFER (band leader): I object, your honor.

LETTERMAN: We'll be right back here --

McCAIN: I know Gordon Liddy --

LETTERMAN: -- with Senator McCain [inaudible].

McCAIN: -- and his son -- and his son.

[commercial break]

LETTERMAN: How about that Tina Fey?

McCAIN: You say I know Gordon Liddy. I -- he paid his debt. He went to prison. He paid his debt, as people do. I'm not in any way embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy, and his son who is also a good friend and supporter of mine.

LETTERMAN: But you understand that the same case could be made of your relationship with him as is being made with William Ayers?

McCAIN: I -- everything about any relationship that I've ever had I will make completely open and give a complete accounting of.

LETTERMAN: Does she --

McCAIN: Senator Obama said he was a guy that lived in the neighborhood. OK. It was more than that. We all know that. Just like ACORN --

LETTERMAN: They served on a committee at one point.

McCAIN: Yeah, that gave $230,000 to ACORN, which is now involved in what may be --

LETTERMAN: Yes, from -- and what Republican President Reagan's -- yes.

McCAIN: -- one of the great -- one of the greatest voter frauds in history. It could be. We need to know.

LETTERMAN: Are they --

McCAIN: The FBI announced there's an investigation today.

LETTERMAN: Well, are they double-dating? Are they going to dinner? What are they doing? Are they driving cross-country?

McCAIN: Maybe going to Denny's? Who knows?

LETTERMAN: Denny's.

McCAIN: The Grand Slam.

LETTERMAN: The Grand Slam.

McCAIN: There you go.

LETTERMAN: Now, she said "pals around with terrorists." OK, so, that's -- let's say, all right, we'll give her William Ayers. They palled around -- he was 8 and William Ayers was 29, but they palled around.

McCAIN: Look, there's millions of words said in a campaign.

LETTERMAN: Yeah, well, but --

McCAIN: Come on, now. Come on, there's millions of words --

LETTERMAN: -- but that's where we live in politics, isn't it?

McCAIN: -- there's millions of words -- yes, indeed.

LETTERMAN: Let's --

McCAIN: And Senator -- look --

LETTERMAN: Let's talk about Tina Fey. Tremendous, tremendous talent.

From the October 17 edition of MSNBC Live:

HALL: For McCain, it may have been a bit of a break. He got grilled by David Letterman just hours earlier for famously canceling his appearance back in late September. Well, Letterman brought it up night after night, forcing, some say, Senator McCain to show up and take the heat in person.

[begin video clip]

McCAIN: I screwed up. What can I say?

[...]

LETTERMAN: Well --

McCAIN: That's all --

LETTERMAN: I'm willing to put --

McCAIN: -- donk.

LETTERMAN: -- this behind us.

McCAIN: Thank you.

LETTERMAN: Yeah.

McCAIN: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

[end video clip]

HALL: Well, don't be fooled into thinking either Obama or McCain would let humor get in the way of this tough campaign. McCain pushed Obama to explain his ties to '60s radical Bill Ayers back in the debate. Well, now, the McCain campaign is keeping the pressure on by placing robocalls like this one to voters in targeted states. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE [audio clip]: Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers.

HALL: So, let's talk about that with our NBC News deputy political director Mark Murray for today's First Read. Mark, we'd planned to talk about the red states, and we'll get to that, but let's talk about these robocalls and what we're hearing about that tactic.

[...]

HALL: Let's talk about John McCain. He was on Late Night with David Letterman.

NICE: Yes.

HALL: Give him props. He went on there despite the fact that he'd been skewered --

NICE: Yes.

HALL: -- by Letterman leading up to it. We've got that moment. Take a listen.

[begin video clip]

LETTERMAN: Can you stay?

McCAIN: Yes, sir. Depends on how bad it gets.

[...]

McCAIN: It's been a tough campaign --

LETTERMAN: Sure.

McCAIN: -- and I'm sure the next 19 days will be even tougher.

LETTERMAN: It's pretty close now --

McCAIN: But think about all the material that it gives you --

LETTERMAN: What about the --

McCAIN: -- for the next 19 days. There's going to be kind of a --

LETTERMAN: Tell me about --

McCAIN: -- sad feeling around here when the election finally takes place.

LETTERMAN: Oh, we're going off the air, John.

[...]

McCAIN: Look, now's not the time to raise anybody's taxes except yours, and I guarantee you, when I'm president, I'll do it.

[end video clip]

HALL: Before he went on, I said there's no way I would have gone on there. But he handled it well.

NICE: I've got to tell you, I give McCain props. You know, he actually took it in stride, and Letterman has been roasting him.

HALL: Oh, he has been the best --

NICE: Yeah.

HALL: -- the best about just bringing in the campaign with his show, which it makes a great -- great comedian.

NICE: I think the funniest thing he said was, "I haven't had this much fun since my last interrogation." That kind of brings it all together. That lets you know that John McCain is -- actually has a sense of humor.

HALL: Well, that is true.

NICE: You know, you spend many years in a tiger cage --

HALL: And you can joke about it.

NICE: -- and then you can still joke about it, you're an OK guy.

HALL: Yeah. You know, let's talk about Saturday Night Live.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
G. Gordon Liddy, Tamron Hall
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.