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'Raising McCain': Not Your Mother's Talk Show
Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 3:30 pm
Meghan McCain comes by her maverick credentials honestly. As the daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain, she is no stranger to the political limelight. But that doesn't mean she always agrees with her dad or Republican political orthodoxy.
It's that unique perspective that is at the center of her new television show, Raising McCain. The newly launched Pivot network describes the program as a hybrid "docu-talk" show. Each episode features a different co-host and is filmed in a documentary style. But don't expect crying on couches or gift baskets under the seat. She's tackling topics like feminism; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; and young people in the military with an eye on her millennial target audience.
McCain sat down with Tell Me More host Michel Martin to talk about Raising McCain and offer some thoughts on the current government stalemate.
On her inspiration for Raising McCain
I'm such a child of the '90s. I grew up watching MTV News and watching their "Choose or Lose" correspondents interview my dad. And I always thought they were such interesting, cool people. Tabitha Soren has had such a profound impact on my life. ... I just wanted to do a talk show for young people that was discussing serious issues, but not doing it in a way that talks down to people that don't have it all figured out.
On being an advocate for LGBT rights
You know I've never considered myself a journalist, ever. I've always considered myself a commentator. I mean I was born into a bias. ... If someone wants to watch a more even opinion about coming out in America or gay rights, I'm not the girl for you. I have such a strong opinion. ... What I'm always secretly trying to get is that young Republican kid in the middle of the country who is maybe struggling with how he feels about social issues and just knowing that there are other people out there that struggle with that.
On the government shutdown
The government shutdown right now — because we have this innate capability to compromise and work together — it makes me so sad. I don't know when we're going to this tipping point where hopefully things will come back around. But I was just talking to my father on the phone right before I came in here to do this interview and he's saying that this is the worst time in Congress he's ever seen in his entire career. I mean, what does that say?
On who is to blame for the current political climate
I blame cable news. I blame politicians as well. But at a certain point, I don't understand some portion of the American public that supports radical personalities. I've never understood it. I always want to compromise, and I always want to find the other side of the opinion and see if I may be wrong. I'm open to my opinion being changed. I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong. And it's just scary, crazy times that we're living in. And Congress is a bunch of petulant children that can't work together.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, I'll tell you what I'm thinking about in my Can I Just Tell You essay. But first, we have someone who's also known for speaking her mind, whether on Twitter, on talk shows, or in political commentary. We're talking about the one and only, Meghan McCain. The eldest daughter of Senator John McCain may come by her maverick credentials honestly, but her blunt commentary on issues of the day, sometimes breaking with Republican orthodoxy, is her very own. Now she's taking her talent for provocative conversation to the small screen in what she calls a docu-talk show. It's called "Raising McCain".
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAISING MCCAIN")
MEGHAN MCCAIN: Hi, I'm Meghan McCain. You probably know my dad. Hi, dad. But I'm my own person. Sometimes maybe too much so. I like wearing push-up bras and sometimes I dress slutty on Halloween. So do I get to still be a feminist? Some say I'm too conservative. Some say I'm too liberal. But I'm just trying to make sense out of this world like everybody else. What can the average American do to help everyone?
MARTIN: And Meghan McCain joins us now from our New York bureau. Welcome, thanks so much for joining us. Congratulations.
MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Listening to my voice, I think I sound like Minnie Mouse. And you have a wonderful voice.
MARTIN: Well, thank you.
MCCAIN: I mean, that's probably why you're on the radio. Anyway.
MARTIN: Well, thank you. Well, how is "Raising McCain" different from the other talk shows out there?
MCCAIN: You know, first of all, I think it's filmed differently. It's a like a documentary. Like a reality show. But I think the term reality show has such a negative connotation, so I don't like saying that. But I just - I grew up - I'm such a child of the '90s. I grew up watching MTV News and watching their "Choose or Lose" correspondents interview my dad. And I always thought they were such interesting, cool people. Tabitha Soren had such a profound impact on my life, even though I'm sure, at this point, she's weirded out by the fact that I'm saying that in interviews. But, I just want to do a talk show for young people that was discussing serious issues, but not doing it in a way that talks down to people that don't have it all figured it out.
MARTIN: Well, you do tackle serious issues. So, I want to play a little bit from the first episode where you tackled the issue of privacy. And, at the beginning of the episode, you said you really didn't think that privacy existed. And you really didn't care who followed you on Twitter or Instagram. But then you started talking with journalist Michael Moynihan. And I'll just play a little clip of what he had to say. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAISING MCCAIN")
MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: I get why you're unconcerned, in some sense, because you control it, right? You say, well, I only post the things that I want posted on Flickr or Instagram, etc. Well, have you ever sent an e-mail about somebody else that you would not want that third party to see? I'm sure you have. What if I paid someone $30 to get your Gmail password?
MARTIN: So, then you - this turns into a friendly competition where you and Michael Moynihan try to see who can dig up the most dirt on whom.
MARTIN: What gave you the idea for that? And you've actually filmed the - filmed the process where you actually go and try to do that. So, how did you come up with that idea?
MCCAIN: You know, it's so funny that we actually filmed the episode before the whole NSA scandal, so it ended up just being sort of, like, poetic irony that the episode came out when it was so much in the news right now. And it was just the idea that I don't really believe in privacy anymore. I still don't even after doing that episode.
But I started the episode being sort of very cocky and arrogant about it. I'm sharing everything I want to share with the world. And I don't want to get - I mean, everyone can see the episode. It's online and it's on Pivot right now. But by the end of the episode, Michael Moynihan found out where I lived. He knew my Gmail account. He had found pictures of me as a middle schooler. He found some of my ex-boyfriends' information. Things that I would never would want somebody finding out. And, again, for $30. So, I don't know. I was just interested in seeing the kind of world we really live in and it was a really fun episode to tape.
MARTIN: If you don't mind my giving this away, you end the episode by saying, you know what, I think I was wrong. I was wrong about this.
MCCAIN: Oh, yeah.
MARTIN: I was way cavalier about this. And do you mind if I ask, did you really change your mind?
MCCAIN: Nothing in the show is scripted. The best part about this show is that Pivot has never censored me into saying or doing anything, which is really, really awesome people to work with. It makes me very happy. No, I was really scared by the end of it. I mean, he pulled up things that were embarrassing for me just to show my crew. I mean, some of the stuff he pulled up we didn't put on television, just because I can't have my front door and my address, you know, on television.
But, no, I was really scared by the end. I've really curbed some of my behavior since then. I change my passwords on my Gmail and my Twitter and my Facebook almost monthly now. And I - my passwords are much harder to hack into now than they once were. And I'm just much more conscious of the geo-locationed apps on my phone and, like, you know, before he found my address because I had accidentally said yes one time when I was tweeting something and your address comes up. So, the scary thing is we can only curb our behavior so much. The only way you can really have - share nothing is not being on the Internet at all whatsoever. So, I don't know what the answer is, but I'm definitely a lot more conscious of what I do online now.
MARTIN: And, well, the other thing I noticed about the episode is you actually walk people through it. But you also tell them what they can do about it, which is interesting to me. I was interested in - I'm calling it the you go girl section, which is where you kind of tell people what they can do about it. Is that something that you think comes out of your political background? The idea that you want to tell people what they can do, not just what they should know?
MCCAIN: Oh yeah. I mean, part of the reason why Pivot was so appealing to me is there's a social action campaign attached to each episode and attached to the network. So, every single episode we have there, you can go on pivot.com/raisingmccain - pivot.tv/raisingmccain. You can just go to Pivot or takepart.com and there's ways that you can actually get involved and get active. And, you know, you watch an episode, you want to get involved, you can just go online and it shows you how to do it. So, I don't know. I was just more interested in doing something in the world instead of just talking about it.
MARTIN: But yeah, to that end, though - and if you're just joining us, I'm speaking with Meghan McCain. We're talking about her new television show, "Raising McCain." She calls it a docu-talk show. It's available on Pivot. This is a clip of a recent episode where you talked about LGBT rights. You talk with Wade Davis, a former NFL player who many people might remember came out in 2012 after his career was over. Let's listen to a short clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAISING MCCAIN")
MCCAIN: Do you think you didn't come out while you were playing - that had more to do with the environment you were in?
WADE DAVIS: Oh, yeah. I thought that because it hadn't been done before that I would get cut immediately. If I had saw another gay athlete, I would have thought that I could do it. You know, and the old saying goes, you can ever become what you don't see. So, now that there's Jason Collins and Brittney Griner and all these amazing athletes who are visible, young athletes say, hey, you know what, I can do this. I can be gay. I can be a lesbian. I can be trans and be out in sports and succeed.
MARTIN: The question I have for you, though, is that this is an area where people really do have very different points of view. And, if you're going to take the position that you're just kind of giving people information and allowing them to decide what they think, is that, you know, isn't that advocacy? And people know that you have opinions on some hot button social issues. You've never been shy about that. But I do have to ask, like, where is the line between advocacy and journalism?
MCCAIN: You know, I've never considered myself a journalist. Ever. I've always considered myself a commentator. I mean, I was born into a bias. You're right. I mean, if someone wants to watch a more even opinion about coming out in America or gay rights, I'm not the girl for you. I have, you know, such a strong opinion, such a strong stance. I was more interested in - you know, my take is always - what I'm always secretly sort of trying to get is the young Republican kid in the middle of the country who is maybe struggling with how he feels about social issues and just knowing there are other people out there that struggle with that.
And with the gay issues, you know, I still have friends that live in Arizona that don't have as much exposure. I live in the West Village and, obviously, it's a, you know, neighborhood that has quite a large gay population. And I don't know. I just - I always want to show different perspectives. And I don't know. I'm not a journalist and I don't consider this show journalism.
MARTIN: I have to ask you about something else that you said in an interview talking about the program. You were talking to the San Francisco Chronicle, and you said, I'm a socially liberal Republican, and, in many ways, I've been ostracized from my party. I've been ostracized in the media as well. I'm too conservative for MSNBC. I'm too liberal for Fox. Where am I going to go? So, you are explaining, again, this is why you wanted to go to Pivot. That's why your show is on Pivot. You make the point that there are a lot of people like you. You know, what does that say?
MCCAIN: It makes me so sad. I mean, I am never going to fake who I am and what I believe. And I'm never going to lie to anyone. And if I wanted to make a ton of money and be extremely famous, the quickest way for me to have done that is to be an extreme right wing talking head. And just tout off that, you know, all the right wing talking points.
And I just think, you know, the government shut down right now because we have this innate capability to compromise and work together and see the other side. And it's really - it makes me so sad. I don't know when we're going to get to this tipping point where, hopefully, things will come back around. But I was just talking to my father on the phone right before I came here to do this interview, and, you know, he's saying this is the worst time in Congress he's ever seen in his entire career. I mean, what does that say?
MARTIN: Do you ever wonder, though, whether you have a little bit more space to be you because McCain is your last name?
MCCAIN: Oh, totally. I have been given every opportunity any person could ever imagine. I've lived the most blessed, privileged life of any person ever. And I think I have been given that room. And I've been given that room for a long time. And, you know, it's great. But, you know, I take my hits as well. I mean, for every person that loves me there's a bunch of people out there that think I'm the Republican Antichrist. So, you know, take your pick.
MARTIN: Who was it that - somebody said that you inherit some of your father's friends and all of his enemies?
MCCAIN: That is definitely true.
MARTIN: Well, what do you hope to do with this program? Where do you hope to take it?
MCCAIN: You know, well, I hope there's another season. But I - you know, I'm sure, as you know, you have your own show as well. You always watch or listen to things afterward and you think of things you could have changed and done differently. And I actually think if we do a second season, I wouldn't make it as lighthearted as it has been this season. We had so much fun this summer and I think I would actually do something a little more serious than I did before.
MARTIN: Really? Why?
MCCAIN: People are taking small things out of context and sort of, like, thinking that's the entire episode and the entire season. And I play around in the show, and I think there's room for that. But I also think I would maybe tackle some even deeper, more complicated issues.
MARTIN: Like what?
MCCAIN: You know, it's so crazy. I'm actually, like, obsessed with meth in this country right now. Just because I'm from Arizona and it's such a huge problem. And I actually have, in my personal life, I know some people who are struggling with meth that I would never - have ever guessed would have had any experience with that whatsoever. So, things like - just why we're not dealing with this problem of meth in this country.
Stuff on the border. We interviewed DREAM Act students in one of the episodes, which I thought was really important, but just more things about immigration in this country. Immigration policies. There's a new election coming up. I would really love to interview some of the potential candidates, but whether or not they say yes to me, that's probably - they probably won't but, you know. I mean, I don't know. I'm just - I feel more serious than I did when I started the show.
MARTIN: Well, these are serious times.
MARTIN: And people are going through some very serious things. So, I can - I can certainly understand, you know, why you feel that way. The only other question I have for you and, honestly, you might not have an answer, and I don't fault you if you don't, do you have a sense of - as we are speaking now, as you mentioned, while we're speaking now in the midst of the government shutdown, as a person who grew up in politics, do you have any idea why things are as they are?
I mean, I know we've been getting all kinds of communications from listeners who are just disgusted. And they just think, what is going on here? They feel like they're kind of pawns in somebody else's game and they don't understand it. Like, why our government isn't functioning. I mean, you grew up around it, do you have any insights?
MCCAIN: I know that, for whatever reason, if you are a moderate, which I do consider myself, in any way, for whatever reason, the media considers you someone who doesn't have their beliefs well thought out. And, just because I'm open-minded to my beliefs changing and I'm ever evolving and I'm ever growing in my world view, that doesn't make me less than you. You think you have it all figured out and that the Republican party or the Democratic party is the only way and has it all done. People like that scare me. And I blame cable news. I blame politicians as well.
But, at a certain point, I don't understand some portion of the American public that supports radical personalities. I've never understood it. I always want to compromise and I always want to find the other side of the opinion and see if I may be wrong. I'm open to my opinion being changed. I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong. And it's just scary, crazy times that we're living in. And Congress is a bunch of, you know, petulant children that can't work together.
MARTIN: Meghan McCain's new program, "Raising McCain", airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Pivot. You want to check your local listings. And Meghan McCain joined us from New York. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
MCCAIN: Oh, yeah. Thank you so much. It was great. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.