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Bloviating Dick Cavett Bashes 'Know-Nothing' Sarah Palin, Obsesses Over His Brilliance

Talk show host Dick Cavett, whose TV show went off the air in 1982, appeared on MSNBC, Friday, to trash Sarah Palin as a "know nothing" and someone who has "no first language." Mostly, however, he seemed interested only in talking about himself, prompting News Live host Norah O'Donnell to chide, "Dick, this segment is about Sarah Palin, not about you, Dick." [Audio available here.]

John Harwood, New York Times writer and CNBC contributor, co-hosted and kicked off the segment with this condescending question: "Let me ask you what you make of the Sarah Palin phenomenon and, in particular, the argument that some people make, well, she might not be a good President, but she'd be a good talk show host. You think so?"

Cavett clearly wanted to bash Palin, but he really wanted to tout his own brilliance and a column he wrote for the New York Times over a year ago: "The subject is a dear one to me because I wrote a notorious, apparently, column about Sarah Palin called the Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla for my Times Online blog. And, you know, it is interesting. When you are quoted for something you said on the air, it's one thing. But, when they quoted something you wrote, it is pleasing in a different way."

Continuing to cite himself, he recounted, "The two things people remember from this column seem to be, A, she seems to have no first language and that I really felt sorry for John McCain because he aimed low and missed."

The ex-TV host, who, as the MRC's Tim Graham pointed out, was last culturally relevant with his cameo in the 1988 film Beetlejuice, claimed he was bothered that John McCain "was willing to put a know-nothing in the White House."

Cavett talked about himself so much that he prompted O'Donnell to jokingly ask about "your column, how many times was it e-mailed around, by the way? How popular was it?" The aging former TV host chided, "I'll send you a list, Norah. Are you still reading these days?" He then quipped, "Hey, and thank you for returning my phone call, by the way. But, we won't go into that."

Is MSNBC this desperate for Palin bashing that the network would highlight a year-old column from a talk show host who hasn't been on television since Ronald Reagan was in the White House?

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 2:19pm EST on November 20, follows:



NORAH O'DONNELL: Next up on the op-edge, Rogue. American woman. Op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd, love her, takes a look at Sarah Palin's current book tour.

JOHN HARWOOD: Dowd writes, quote, "Of course the subtitle of Sarah Palin's book is an American life. Because she is the lovely avatar of real Americans, ordinary, hard working, God-fearing, common sense, good, ordinary, real Americans. If you are not living an American life, you are, to use a Palin coinage living bass-ackwards. Joining us now for more on Sarah Palin is an op-ed contributor for the New York Times. It's a privilege to have him on. Dick Cavett. Dick, I was watching your show for years and I'm delighted that you're on. Let me ask you what you make of the Sarah Palin phenomenon and, in particular, the argument that some people make that, well, she might not be a good President, but she'd be a good talk show host. You think so?

DICK CAVETT: No.

HARWOOD: Why?

CAVETT: Oh, should I go on?

HARWOOD: Yes, please.

CAVETT: The subject is a dear one to me because I wrote a notorious, apparently, column about Sarah Palin called the Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla for my Times Online blog. And, you know, it is interesting. When you are quoted for something you said on the air, it's one thing. But, when they quoted something you wrote, it is pleasing in a different way. The two things people remember from this column seem to be, A, she seems to have no first language [Harwood laughs at this] and that I really felt sorry for John McCain because he aimed low and missed.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Well, Dick, what did you think about the stuff we showed on the book tour. I mean, I was just out there in Michigan, of course, in Indiana with Sarah Palin and to talk to a lot of the crowds out there. What do you think about her as a communicator and her difference between her and as a communicator and Barack Obama, say?

CAVETT: Well, you have to say that she obviously communicates, because so many people seem to like her. And she looks nice and has got energy and so on. The fact that you can take any five consecutive words out of any long sentence of hers and put them anywhere else in that paragraph without changing the meaning bothers me. And the fact that a presidential candidate was willing to put a know-nothing in the White House leading the leading country of the world must have been popular because my blog was the most forwarded and most responded to piece they have had of the Times of this time.

O'DONNELL: Dick, this segment is about Sarah Palin, not about you, Dick. [Harwood and O'Donnell laugh.]

CAVETT: Did I mention my name once?

O'DONNELL: Yeah. Or your column, how many times was it e-mailed around, by the way? How popular was it?

CAVETT: I'll send you a list, Norah. Are you still reading these days?

O'DONNELL: I hear you. I hear you, Dick.

CAVETT: Hey, and thank you for returning my phone call, by the way. But, we won't go into that.

O'DONNELL: Okay, Dick.

CAVETT: Obama is an excellent communicator as we know, of course. And Oprah, my God. I must confess, Norah and John, I stopped reading in the third paragraph of the Times today that I don't care if Oprah is on network or cable or radar, I just want her available to me and there's still time for me to be the only person in media who has not been on Oprah's show. Is that about me or not?

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.