Exquisitely awkward, yet a gutsy showing on McCain's part nonetheless. These late night chat shows usually try to cultivate a chummy vibe, although conservative guests are often grilled by liberal hosts seeking to signal their ideological virtue. After some friendly chit-chat about her SNL internship and some crowd-pleasing Trump criticism, Seth Meyers started chiding McCain over her criticisms of Rep. Ilhan Omar's anti-Semitism. McCain responded by very pointedly refusing to back down or play along -- ultimately asking Meyers if he was acting as Omar's publicist (skip ahead to the 6:30 mark):
"I stand by every single thing I've said, and if that makes me unpopular in this room, or in front of you, so be it."
Meyers repeatedly asserts that Omar has apologized ("unequivocally") for her anti-Semitic comments, but that's not exactly true. First of all, would he accept a simple apology if, say, a Republican Congressman had tweeted some flagrantly racists things? Second, Omar apologized for some of her expressions of anti-Semitism, but after her most recent 'dual loyalty' smear, her lack of contrition touched off a battle within the Democratic Party over how, or if, to condemn her. Nancy Pelosi ended up watering down the resulting resolution so much that it was ridiculed as a meaningless "anti-hate" catch-all -- and far from truly apologizing, Omar effectively declared victory, congratulating herself for starting "difficult conversations" and relishing the role of causing discomfort, or whatever:
OMAR SPEAKS:— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) March 8, 2019
“I am certainly not looking to be comfortable, and I don’t want everyone necessarily to feel comfortable around me,” she tells me. “I’m OK with taking the blows if it means it will ignite conversations that no one was willing to have before.” https://t.co/8atQduvFhF
It's just not accurate to say that Omar has apologized, especially when her claims of ignorance don't hold water either. She's a heroine in her own mind. It's also a very bad argument to suggest that an elected official should be spared serious criticism over bigoted words because he or she has been targeted by threats. Meyers' show frequently hammers President Trump and Republicans with highly critical, and sometimes tendentious, "Closer Look" segments. Trump receives numerous death threats. Does Meyers accept responsibility for possibly contributing to those threats? Would he agree to tamp down his attacks on Trump in the name of preserving the president's personal safety? Of course not. The notion that Meghan McCain and conservative commentators have some obligation ignore or downplay the anti-Semitism of a member of Congress -- a grown woman with real power -- is unserious, as is the whole "incitement" silencing push.
The other point Meyers makes in this exchange, after being pressed by McCain, is that Omar's comments about 9/11 were taken "out of context." I wrote fairly extensively about what she said when the two controversial clips surfaced, objecting far more strongly to her defenders' tactics than to her original comments about both the 2001 terror attacks, and Al Qaeda. But I don't believe additional "context" helps Omar very much at all. Her seemingly-dismissive remark about 9/11 ("some people did something") was delivered at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which the US government listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terrorism funding case. Centrist writer David Frum has also noted that Omar's admirers cannot erase CAIR's "history of radical advocacy and apologetics." As for her her chuckling discussion of Americans' tendency to cringe and recoil at the mention of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, the man who was interviewing her at the time is an infamously anti-Semitic crank. She appeared on his show multiple times. How does any of that context redound to her benefit, in terms of either her moral compass or her judgment?
In any case, it takes real fortitude to step into the arena, especially in a hostile venue, and refuse to back down, even if doing so would win some applause from a Manhattan audience. McCain does this every day on The View, which can get...a bit testy from time to time. If she's not afraid to take on an entire panel of liberals on a daily basis, pushing back on Seth Meyers was a relative cinch. I'll leave you with some very colorful commentary about the segment from The Federalist's Ben Domenech, McCain's husband (content warning): "I see that @sethmeyers, the untalented piece of sh*t who only has has job because he regularly gargled Lorne Michaels’ balls, went after my wife tonight with his idiotic anti-Semitic bullsh*t,” Domenech wrote [in a since-deleted tweet].