Kara Swisher on John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin was an influntial conservative and used to host a public affairs show on public television that I stopped watching after one episode because the discussions were so puerile and he was so obnoxious, barking out statements to the panel. Reporter Kara Swisher used to work for McLaughlin and she describes what an awful human being he was

My next boss after Shafer was John McLaughlin, of the TV show The McLaughlin Group. I ghostwrote his column in the National Review—he would add in the right-wing invective—and then I worked on his show. That asshole of a human being. I got the sense he sort of respected me because I didn’t put up with his shit. Because I wasn’t a Republican. I was a liberal, obviously. All these people were weird acolytes to him because he was a big deal during the Reagan administration. That was his power. So he used that. These people would do everything to work for one of the top Republican people, and I was like, I don’t give a fuck. My whole history is not going to depend on this. He enjoyed a smart woman in a weird, sick way.

He was awful and abusive and terrible—and as it turned out, he was like Sexual Harasser 101. He was harassing a woman on the staff who was a friend of mine. But he was abusive to the whole staff. He would line people up by height and then make them look for a dust ball under his couch. Stuff like that. This was Captain Queeg kind of behavior. He was just super crazy. Everyone had a beeper—he had to know where you were.

There was one incident, which I think they wrote about in the Washington Post, where he used to require that everybody make him toast. He liked buttered toast in a certain way. So he would have the chief of staff make him toast. And so he called me in one day and said, “Would you make toast?” And I told him, “No, I’m not making you toast.” And he said, “Everybody on staff makes me toast, and if you don’t, you get fired.” I said, “Well, I’m not making you toast. So you’re going to have to fire me.” And he goes, “Just so you know, if I ask you and you don’t make it, I’ll fire you.” I said, “OK, good.” And he never asked me, not once.

And then when he started sexually harassing this woman I was friends with, that was enough of it. I’d seen him do it to her. And it really devastated her. This was pre–Anita Hill. It was way before anybody had any knowledge of what this was or reacted to it in an intelligent way. Everybody behaved like fools. So eventually I quit.

I’ve told this story before, but years later I ran into him, and he said, “Most people in this town stab you in the back, but you stabbed me in the front, and I appreciate that.” I said, “Anytime, you son of a bitch.” It was a great moment. I’m so glad he’s dead. Seriously, I’m glad he’s dead. He was a jackass. He deserved it.

Swisher seems to be an extremely self-confident person and was thus able to treat McLaughlin with the contempt he deserved. But one feels sorry for all the people he treated so badly.


  1. Matt G says

    Another story to file under “not remotely surprising”. And jerks like this always manage to slither to the top.

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