On Thursday, C-SPAN announced that political editor Steve Scully would be placed on administrative leave after he admitted to lying about his Twitter account being hacked to send a tweet addressed to former advisor to President Donald Trump, Anthony Scaramucci, who’s since become a Trump critic. For fans of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the tweet may seem uncharacteristic, as Scully was given the title of “The Most Patient Man in Television” by Oliver.
In the segment from Oliver’s show, Scully “endures the American public” by fielding calls from viewers and hearing them out. Scully listens to viewers rattle off their opinions. While some of the most ridiculous C-SPAN callers rant, Scully simply stares at the camera, listening intently with a blank or occasionally puzzled or concerned look on his face. He often just gives curt responses, like a simple “Okay.”
Occasionally, Last Week Tonight includes some more of Scully’s responses. In an early clip, Scully responds to a caller calling former President Barack Obama a Muslim by saying, “Obama is not a Muslim, but thank you for making your comment,” in a very calm, polite manner. He sounds like he’s just trying to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible.
While Scully’s facial expressions occasionally show that his patience is being tested, he rarely breaks other than to give that simple “Okay” response. Although in one clip shared in the montage, Scully does have to tell a caller that they’re on air.
Another clip shows just how much Scully can endure, with various graphics like space and wild animals surrounding Scully’s dead stare as a caller rants about the environment to show “a glimpse into the inner workings of the most patient man on television.” Shortly before the caller finishes speaking, a voiceover tells Scully that it’s “time to go back now,” just in time for Scully to thank the caller for speaking to him.
While it’s unclear if Last Week Tonight will strip Scully of his title due to his suspension, it’s safe to say that the president’s tweets attacking him tested his patience. Prior to the second presidential debate’s cancellation, Trump called Scully a Never Trumper, in a tweet and in an interview with Sean Hannity. Scully had tweeted “@Scaramucci should I respond to trump.”
In a statement obtained by Newsweek Thursday, Scully said that attacks from conservative outlets and the president led to him sending the tweet. “For several weeks, I was subjected to relentless criticism on social media and in conservative news outlets regarding my role as moderator for the second presidential debate, including attacks aimed directly at my family,” he said. “This culminated on Thursday, October 8th when I heard President Trump go on national television twice and falsely attack me by name. Out of frustration, I sent a brief tweet addressed to Anthony Scaramucci.”
Scully apologized both for sending the tweet and lying about it. “These were both errors in judgement for which I am totally responsible. I apologize,” he said.
C-SPAN explained that while it doesn’t condone Scully’s actions, it does plan on having him back in the future. “We were very saddened by this news and do not condone his actions. During his 30 years at C-SPAN, Steve consistently demonstrated his fairness and professionalism as a journalist. He has built a reservoir of goodwill among those he has interviewed, fellow journalists, our viewers, and with us. Starting immediately, we have placed Steve on administrative leave. After some distance from this episode, we believe in his ability to continue to contribute to C-SPAN,” the company said in a statement.