For Presidential Candidates, Late Night is a Safer Bet than Sunday Morning

By Alex Weprin 

The Los Angeles TimesScott Collins notes that for the GOP presidential candidates, the late night comedy circuit has become a much more desirable place to give interviews than the Sunday morning public affairs shows.

But in an ever fragmenting television universe, the Sunday morning talk shows are witnessing their central role in the election process fade as candidates gravitate toward lighter programs where the hosts are more welcoming, the audiences younger and the questions usually softer.

To that list we would add that the late night shows typically draw more viewers, and far more young viewers than the Sunday shows, which skew very old. In addition, viewers of the Sunday shows are often already interested in politics, which results in diminishing returns for candidates. The late night shows appeal to a wider range of viewers, including those who aren’t political junkies, and may not have already made up their minds on who to vote for.

Collins also spoke to both comedians and Sunday show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Chris Wallace, and featured their reactions to the question of whether late night was becoming more of a destination for politicians.

“The idea that an interview on Fox News or MSNBC is more serious than an interview on my show is silly,” said Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” “It isn’t. I’m a person talking to another person, and so are they.”

“The idea that these cable news networks have more gravitas than David Letterman does, I mean, that’s ridiculous,” added the late-night host, who first interviewed then GOP frontrunner Herman Cain about allegations of sexual harassment last month. “This idea that they’re journalists — what does it even mean anymore?”

“They feel more comfortable going on Fox News, just like President Obama and Vice President Biden and Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley have felt more comfortable going on ‘Meet the Press’ and ABC and CBS for the last three years,” [Wallace] said. “There are places you feel you might get a fairer hearing.”