In the Trump era, when all the rules around what one can and can’t get away with appear to have shifted, it can be hard to watch reporters question public figures without screaming phantom follow-up questions at the TV.
The way that Sunday morning news show hosts border on coddling the likes of blatant, proven liars such as Rudy Giuliani, Kellyanne Conway, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders turns many viewers into backseat interviewers. So it’s refreshing to see someone like Seth Meyers, who isn’t a reporter but rather a sharp, funny talk-show host, firmly hold someone accountable the way he did with Meghan McCain on Tuesday night.
The exchange begins congenially enough, as the pair connects over their shared history with Saturday Night Live. (He was a head writer, she an intern.) Things heat up considerably, however, when Meyers steers the conversation toward the View cohost’s recent comments around Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
McCain has been one of many voices from the right condemning the congresswoman through outsize megaphones over Omar’s recent comments about Israel. In February, Omar criticized the Israeli lobbying body in a now-notorious tweet, which the right has frequently misconstrued as anti-Semitism. Since then, Omar has also become a conservative punching bag for appearing to not denounce 9/11 in strong enough terms during a context-free clip from a speech. Trump himself, of course, eventually had to insert himself into the conversation with a disgusting video about Omar and 9/11. McCain has taken particular offense to Omar’s existence, inexplicably crying on TV over the supposed harm the congresswoman has inflicted upon Jews, and even tying her comments to recent acts of extremist violence.
Seth Meyers wasn’t about to let any of this recent behavior go unchecked during their interview.
First, Meyers establishes that even after Omar publicly apologized for her comments related to Israel, McCain went on a Sunday morning news show and linked those comments to the recent San Diego shooting at a temple.
“I do think it’s fairly dangerous, and you brought it up after Congresswoman Omar had also had some death threats against her,” he says. “She’s obviously now stated she needs to be more careful with her language. Don’t you think people who talk about her need to be a little bit more thoughtful as well? Or do you stand by those comments of tying her rhetoric to the synagogue shooting?”
“I don’t think I tied her to it in particular,” McCain responds. “I think that I’m calling out what I see as anti-Semitic language.”
“But you called it out after she’d apologized for it. I do want to establish the timeline,” Meyers says, not letting her get away with dodging his particular qualm with her remarks. It’s a kind of persistence many reporters should find instructive.
“I stand by every single thing I’ve said,” McCain eventually responds, after further condemning Omar once more, “and if that makes me unpopular in this room or in front of you, so be it.”
“Um, well, I don’t . . . See, that’s a weird thing, that you can take the position of trying to be ‘unpopular,'” Meyers says, refusing to let McCain frame their discussion in her own terms. “Here I am trying to find the common ground on this because I do think . . . ”
At this point, McCain interrupts her interviewer and changes the subject. It won’t be the last time, either.
“Were you bothered by her language about 9/11?” she asks.
“I thought it was taken out of context, and I think if you watched that whole speech . . . ”
“Would you give President Trump the same leverage if he had said the same thing?”
Meyers knows an opening when he sees one, and with zero hesitation, he pounces here:
Well, I would say that Donald Trump is certainly in no position to criticize her language on 9/11 based on the things that he’s said about 9/11, right? Let me make the clarification between Donald Trump and Ilhan Omar, is one of them has apologized and said they’re gonna try to do better and they’re going to be educated by people who know about this–that’s what she said. And it’s an interesting thing when we have two Muslim women for the first time [Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is also Muslim], they do have a different perspective on things, and when we talk about, ‘Let’s try to meet in the middle on things,’ we have to listen to other people’s perspectives.
After Meyers again brings the conversation back to the substance of McCain’s own words–persistence! What a concept!–she again tries to focus on what Omar has said instead.
“You do keep bringing up the two tweets that she’s apologized for, and I think that’s a little unfair to her,” he says.
She cuts him off again and lets out a little punctuation mark of a laugh.
“Are you her publicist?” she asks.
“No, I’m just someone who cares about the fact that there’s someone out there who is, uh, in a minority, who has had death threats against her, and I think that we should all use the same language. You’re asking her to be careful about her language, and I’d ask everyone to be careful about theirs.”
It’s a statement that would be difficult, maybe impossible, to push back on, and McCain can’t quite do it. Instead, she bizarrely asks Meyers, “What would make you happy coming out of my mouth right now?”
It’s the kind of thing one says when they have nothing left to say.
Watch the whole exchange below, starting at around 6:36.
UPDATE: Team McCain hasn’t been handling the damning interview very well. The View co-host’s husband, Ben Domenech, publisher of far right website, The Federalist, went on a Twitter rant about Meyers. Here are what the since-deleted tweets read, courtesy of Raw Story:
“I see that @sethmeyers, the untalented piece of shit who only has has job because he regularly gargled Lorne Michaels’ balls, went after my wife tonight with his idiotic anti-Semitic bullshit”
“Here is proof that white men get ahead despite their obvious lack of talent. It’s @sethmeyers, who would beg for a third of the viewers at @TheView. He’s awful, untalented, and a perfect definition of a cuck.”