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Sizzle! David Letterman Skewers McCain Over Cancellation

Late Show host David Letterman skewered John McCain for canceling his appearance about one hour before taping.

(ETA: LA Times says McCain canceled "hours" before taping.)

After praising McCain as a hero, Letterman then repeatedly speculated that “something doesn’t smell right.” 

"This is not the way a tested hero behaves," asserted Letterman, "somebody’s puttin’ something in [McCain’s] Metamucil.”

Letterman also questioned McCain’s campaign suspension. "I’m more than a little disappointed by his behavior. Are we suspending it because there’s an economic crisis," Letterman asked, "or because the poll numbers are sliding?"

According to Letterman, McCain insisted he was "getting on a plane immediately and racing back to Washington" to deal with the financial crisis.  But, delivering the coup de grace, Letterman then showed McCain taping a segment for CBS Evening Newswith Katie Couric, in a studio apparently just three blocks away.

Late Show producers switched to a live feed of make-up staff patting McCain down in preparation for his Couric interview - at the very moment when the GOP presidential candidate was slated to appear on Letterman

"The road to the White House runs right through me," quipped Letterman, "….he calls me on the phone…As part of the national good, I said I understood….He said ‘we’re gonna go save the country.’  But it’s like we caught him getting a manicure or something!"

"He’s now on Rachael Ray making veal piccata," announced Letterman finally, seemingly delighted to be toying with all the new material inadvertently supplied by the McCain camp.

ETA: Did Nikki Finke break this story on Deadline Hollywood Daily?  Finke offers a somewhat expanded accounting of the incident.  Finke’s provocative headline: "David Letterman Busts McCain For Lying."

….Letterman explained to the cameras why McCain was a no-show and even had nice things to say about the guy. That is, until the behind the scenes people in The Late Show control room were shocked to see a live feed of McCain being miked in Katie Couric’s CBS News studio at the same time he was supposed to be in Dave’s studio. Letterman was informed of this during the commercial break….

ETA: via a tweet from Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan.  NJ Star-Ledger Alan Sepinwall posted the transcript of the Letterman "snap."

Note: The Senator has appeared on Letterman a dozen times to date and he announced his presidential bid on the show in 2007.  McCain’s enjoyed (past tense is operable here) an easy rapport with Letterman and the venue humanized him.  Misleading Letterman to this extent is the mother of all blunders.

ETA: This morning Kansas City Star critic Aaron Barnhart returns to the topic of talk show influence. 

When David Letterman spent 40 minutes of his show last night ripping John McCain for cancelling his appearance on the show at the last minute — and then gradually expanding his personal, peevish complaint into a brilliant critique of the McCain campaign, it brought to the fore once again an argument I made here a couple of weeks ago: that trusted talk-show hosts can introduce ideas into the mainstream that the MSM can’t, or with greater force than the "on the one hand, on the other" MSM can muster.