Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen apparently has no future as the jibe-taking Ed McMahon sidekick on late-night talk shows.
Media reports say the Taoiseach is ranging from unhappy to enraged at the way he was treated during his Friday night interview with Ryan Tubridy, the new host of Ireland's popular "Late Late Show." Tubridy was making his debut performance in the high-profile slot, and was anxious for a show that would establish him as a late-night star and whip up some publicity.
The "publicity" part, as it happened, came easily, when Tubridy asked Cowen about his drinking habits -- and whether drinking WAS a habit.
The questions to Cowen came like punches from a boxer, not the norm among the laid-back Irish media, and the Taoiseach was only able to say he enjoyed "a pint" on weekends.
Right after the show, a writer for the Irish Sunday Independent cornered the prime minister, who had already recovered his political skills.
“What’s done is done,” he said, “I will just move on.”
The shaken-but-not-too-stirred Taoiseach said of the interview: “It was like a junior hurling match. The pulling was hard from the throw-in. All I could do was to stay in close and wait for my chance.”
However, various sources from Irish broadcaster RTE sounded as if a lot of "hurling" ight be going on in the network's headquarters.
An RTE exec told the Sunday Independent: “Ryan’s questions were fine, but he didn’t give the Taoiseach enough time to answer. He probably should have given him a bit of space.
“But it was Ryan’s first program. It was a big night for him. Maybe he was just a bit nervous. That’s the way it came across to me."
The still-employed Tubridy said after the show that he “did not feel the need to prove anything” by his Nike Wallace approach to questioning the Prime Minsiter. He said he had done his homework before the show, and believed that his questions should have been tough but fair.
“I thought about it a lot,” he said. “We are at a turning point in the country’s history. I felt I had a duty that the questions be difficult.”
The "difficult" part may just be beginning. Government sources close to Cowen told IrishCentral that many are red-hot at the incident. One told the Sunday Independent: “Look, I don’t know what it is with the media in Irelandthese days. It’s not about Brian, it’s about the office he holds. He is the Taoiseach, after all. To be treated like that on the 'Late Late Show' is outrageous.”
RTE, which draws no small amount of its operating funds from the Government, has often shown a split personality when it covers potentially embarrassing stories about Irish bigwigs. Shortly after the network aired a story about a semi-nude portrait of the Taoiseach somehow turning up on the walls of a renowned Dublin museum -- an RTE anchor went before the cameras with a groveling apology for "any offense" the news item may have caused. The baffling and contrite apology left many commentators in the journalism world cringing.