John McCainJohnMcCain

What was the accusation?

During his presidential run in 2008, Senator John McCain was scheduled to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman.  However, McCain canceled his appearance on the program at the last minute in order to attend to a looming financial crisis in Washington D.C.  Letterman was upset about the cancellation, blasting McCain in an on-air rant.  He said: “I’m more than a little disappointed by this behavior…We’re suspending the campaign. Suspending it because there’s an economic crisis, or because the poll numbers are sliding? This doesn’t smell right…Because this is not the way a tested hero behaves. I think someone’s put something in his Metamucil.”  Letterman also criticized McCain for doing an interview with Katie Couric of NBC just five blocks away at the same time he was supposed to be appearing on the Late Show.  Letterman showed video feed of the interview on his own show and asked McCain if he needed a ride to the airport?  McCain would later go on Letterman’s show and declare quite candidly, “I screwed up.”

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Bolstering

Video of McCain’s Defense on Letterman

Transcript of McCain’s Defense on Letterman

David Letterman: Now what exactly happened? I thought I was doing my part to save the economy and then later I get to thinking maybe I’m just not important enough.

John McCain: Can I give you an answer?

DL: Please.

JM: I screwed up.

DL: Well.

JM: Look at all the conversation I gave you, including having Mr. Olbermann on.

DL: Yes, it really was fun.  But, you know John, you call me and…

JM: I haven’t had so much fun since my last interrogation.

DL: You called me an hour and half and said we’ve gotta get right back to Washington, but you didn’t go right back to Washington.

JM: I screwed up.  What can I say? What can I say?  It’s been reviewed pretty well.

DL: But was it just that it’s…you had a meeting…probably had a meeting and everyone said “It’s just Dave.” We don’t care.

JM: It’s only Dave.  There’s only a few million people that will be watching.  What the hell.  Who cares?  That’s all, duh.

DL: Well, uh, I’m willing to put this behind us.

JM: Thank you. Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

DL: And thank you for coming back.


Carter, B. (2008, September 24). Letterman: McCain’s cancellation not funny. New York Times.

John McCain to David Letterman: ‘I screwed up’. People. Retrieved from:

Mooney, A. (2008, October 17). McCain, Letterman make nice in ‘Late Show’ visit. CNN. Retrieved from:

Saul, M. (2008, September 24). David Letterman roasts John McCain for skipping out on ‘Late Show’. New York Daily News. Retrieved from: