Politicians have a way of all sounding the same. But in comedy, stealing another guy’s joke is a cardinal sin.
Since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is basically an absurdist routine that just won’t die, it’s only fitting that the talking hairpiece is being called out for jacking one of Sen. Al Franken’s old bits. Trump, who is leading in the GOP polls, came under fire over the weekend for slighting Republican senator and former wannabe prez John McCain’s war hero status. But as CNN points out, the line Trump recycled was used by Franken more than 15 years ago.
“I have tremendous respect for McCain, but I don’t buy the war hero thing,” Franken remarked to Salon in 2000. “Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war.”
Forgetting the Minnesota Democrat's past satirical comedy career, it sounds as offensive as something that might have originated in Trump’s head, frankly. But in Franken’s book Lies: And the Lying Liars who Tell Them, he writes that the McCain bit, referencing McCain’s capture during the Vietnam War, was “called irony.” Four years after the Salon article, McCain was a guest on Franken’s radio show, during which the former Saturday Night Live star revisited his remarks.
“I mean, I consider you a hero, tremendous political courage, not, you know, the thing about five years, or five and a half years at the Hanoi Hilton; as far as I’m concerned you just sat out the war,” Franken said. “I don’t consider that real heroism. Anybody can get captured, right?”
Trump, the former reality TV star who’s approaching Bachmann-esque levels of crazy talk, made similar comments (but seriously), calling out McCain for being a POW at an Iowa forum.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said, according to the New York Times. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
The person who actually refers to himself as “The Donald” has since clarified his comments, saying that all soldiers are heroes. But the real question is why rip off Franken when his original material is so much crazier, like the one about those rapist Mexican immigrants?
Send news tips to Michael Rietmulder.