The Buzz

Olbermann on Letterman on McCain -- Oh my!

Categories: Television

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

In case you missed the whirlwind of discussion, one of yesterday's most talked-about stories concerned a leaked clip of late-night host David Letterman delivering a wicked verbal smackdown to Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Letterman was royally pissed-off, cuz the silver-haired senator had backed out of a scheduled interview at the last minute, claiming he had to prioritize dealing with the collapsing U.S. economy and was about to board a plane and fly directly to D.C. Yeah, OK, said the folks in Letterman's camp, somewhat grudgingly. Imagine their surprise when they discovered -- through a live feed over at the show's network, CBS -- that McCain wasn't on a plane. Nope, he was preparing for an on-air tete-a-tete with interviewer Katie Couric. Letterman, enraged, lambasted the senator throughout the taping of his own show.

It was a truly meta moment: a hangdog Letterman learns he's been lied to -- and symbolically cuckolded -- by a correspondent at his own network! Through a live feed! Needless to say, Letterman seized the opportunity to challenge McCain's ethics and poke holes in his political priorities. Surreal and spectacular, especially since the clip was "leaked" to YouTube (some claim a CBS mole planted it; I wouldn't put it past Letterman himself) hours before the show went to air.

But the most meta-twist of all: real political analyst Keith Olbermann, who stepped up as a replacement guest after McCain bailed, covered the story in the actual campaign coverage on his own cable news show... using footage that showed Olbermann himself sitting on Letterman's couch while the two of them gazed at McCain being primped for Couric on a screen. If I didn't know better, I'd swear Charlie Kaufman had written this doozy of a mash-up between entertainment and politics.

--Sarah Liss

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