Did President Obama somehow degrade the "dignity" of his office with a recent appearance on the Funny or Die Web series Between Two Ferns? ABC News correspondent Jim Avila lobbed this accusation at Obama during a press briefing this week, claiming that Obama's interview was unprecedented in nature and may have hurt the integrity of the White House.
Last night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow disputed Avila's assertion that Obama's appearance — a stunt to encourage young people to sign up for health insurance — was the first of its kind. She also demonstrated that it achieved what it set out to accomplish.
As a result of Obama's Funny or Die interview with Zach Galifianakis, Maddow noted, "Traffic at Healthcare.gov was up 40% that day," and "the 'Between Two Ferns' website became the number one referral site on the entire Internet for sending people to Healthcare.gov."
But in spite of its effectiveness, various pundits, including Avila and CNN political analyst David Gergen, expressed their outrage at the appearance. On Wednesday, Gergen tweeted
, "Unimaginable that Truman, Ike, JFK, Reagan would appear on Between Two Ferns. They carefully protected majesty of their office."
Compiling a collection of clips of past presidents who have appeared with comedians, Maddow showed up these critics. Among the clips Maddow featured were President Eisenhower on The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1955, Ronald Reagan taking part in comedy birthday shows with George Burns and Bob Hope, George W. Bush appearing on Deal or No Deal with Howie Mandel, and, most famously, Richard Nixon on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.
Maddow concluded, "Telling jokes or being part of comedy bits not only has generations of precedent among American presidents, it really has never diminished the dignity of the office."