The McLaughlin Group

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This article is about the United States TV show. For the mathematical object, see McLaughlin group (mathematics).
The McLaughlin Group
The McLaughlin Group title screen
Created by John McLaughlin
Starring John McLaughlin
Tom Rogan
Pat Buchanan
Eleanor Clift
Mort Zuckerman
Country of origin United States
Running time 30 minutes
Distributor WTTW National Productions
Original network Broadcast syndication, primarily to public television
Original release January 1, 1982 – Present
External links

The McLaughlin Group is a syndicated half-hour weekly public affairs television program in the United States, where a group of five pundits discuss current political issues in a round table format. It has been broadcast since 1982, and is currently sponsored by MetLife. Previous underwriters included Pfizer, the New York Stock Exchange, and GE (the longest-serving).


The general format for the show consists of a moderator, John McLaughlin, along with four commentators: usually Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Tom Rogan, Clarence Page, and Mort Zuckerman. The identity of the regular panelists has varied over the years.

A typical episode covers three or four issues. The first is introduced by McLaughlin, beginning with, "Issue one..." which is explained by him, usually in a prerecorded video segment accompanied by his voice-over. He then proposes a question for the panelists, starting with Buchanan (if present). The conversation is usually sedate at the beginning of the program, but as opposing viewpoints emerge there is more verbal rough-housing, good-natured gamesmanship and occasionally very loud crosstalk as panelists attempt to out-yell the others, all of which are the show's trademarks.[1] The panelists are supposed to yield when McLaughlin speaks, and he sometimes reminds them of that rule during the show. McLaughlin will usually present a dichotomous "Exit question..." so that each panelist may make a closing remark on the issue. Subsequent issues (possibly separated by advertising breaks on commercial stations) are begun by McLaughlin in a similar fashion, but open heated debate begins more quickly.

Time permitting, McLaughlin may ask the panelists for "Predictions" at the close of the episode, at which time each panelist makes a near or long term prediction on a topic of his or her own choosing. Occasionally McLaughlin will ask for a "Forced prediction" from the panelists regarding a specific question, such as, "What will the unemployment rate be at the end of 2009? Forced prediction, Pat Buchanan...." Other questions may close the show as well.

PBS stations sometimes show extra footage not seen on the commercial stations at the end of the show. Since there are no commercial breaks, and the transitions for commercial breaks are removed, time sometimes permits predictions or a relatively frivolous or disjointed final topic.

Two episodes at the turn of the calendar year are reserved for “The McLaughlin Group Year-End Awards.” Each panelist announces his or her choice for each category such as “Biggest Winner of 2008,” ”Best Politician,” “Most Boring,” “Turncoat of the Year,” “Enough Already,” “Most Underrated,” etc., followed by McLaughlin’s choice. During the second of these special episodes, the participants dress in formal eveningwear.

McLaughlin's in-show personality[edit]

The show is known for the quirky style of McLaughlin, who makes witty, sometimes arguably outlandish, predictions based on current events (on March 23, 2007, his prediction was, "The next man on the moon will be Chinese!"), and his question style. He speaks with a stentorian voice such as when he shouts "Issue [number]..." before describing a news story. A phrase he often begins questions to the panelists with, "On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing zero possibility and 10 representing complete metaphysical certitude,...?". For the show aired before Thanksgiving, McLaughlin ends with, "Happy Thanksgiving, Gobble Gobble!"; for the one that precedes St. Patrick's Day, he declaims, "Erin go bragh!" He often teased panelists by giving them obscure nicknames, e.g. "Freddy 'The Beadle' Barnes" or making inside comments about their wealth and such. He especially tends to rib Buchanan, whom he has known since 1970 and who has been a panelist for much of the show's history.

The tone of McLaughlin's program, though often argumentative as with many other "Point–Counterpoint" style programs, is also somewhat different, due to the personal touch of McLaughlin and the panelists. McLaughlin's role often resembles a professorial figure, asking follow-up questions and trying to elicit further responses from a panelist who thinks he or she has fully answered the question, as if McLaughlin were conducting a Socratic class at a university. The panelists of opposite political views (literally on the "left" and "right" of McLaughlin) often agree with each other, or disagree with their supposed political kin on specific points or topics. The personal closeness among some members of the group is clear, as when McLaughlin, in a spring 2005 broadcast, made special mention of the death of Clift's husband at the end of the program, and extended condolences on behalf of the panel.

In popular culture[edit]

McLaughlin’s style has been parodied by many comedians and other commentators, most notably Dana Carvey of Saturday Night Live. McLaughlin made a cameo on one of Carvey’s parody sketches, and adopted some of his gags (such as the “metaphysical certitude” line and occasionally referring to Eleanor Clift as “Eleanor, Gee I Think You’re Swell-anor”). The program has also been included in a few major films, including Dave, Murder at 1600 and Independence Day.

Singer Andrew WK has recorded a 47-second song called “McLaughlin Groove” based on dialogue between McLaughlin and Buchanan on the topics of the untimely death of Senator Paul Wellstone, Carl Sandburg’s "Fog" and the prediction of a Chinese moon-landing.

In the movie Watchmen, the group is portrayed discussing the nature of Dr. Manhattan.[2]

Popular gaming podcast The D6 Generation begins each show with a parody of McLaughlin Group based on the content in that show.

In The Simpsons episode "Lard of the Dance", Lisa Simpson mentions that she watches The McLaughlin Group. The reference serves to demonstrate Lisa's intellectualism and nerdiness.


Journalists James Fallows and ex-McLaughlin panelist Jack Germond have opined that the show glories too much in sensationalism and simplification, to the detriment of serious journalism.[3] Ronald Reagan, while in office as U.S. president, once referred to McLaughlin and his group as taking the format of a Sunday morning television roundtable and turning it into "a political version of Animal House."[4]


In the US, the show is carried on numerous public broadcasting stations, and as of May 2007 a small number of CBS-affiliated stations.[5] Most stations carry the program on weekends, but there are a few, like WGBH in Boston, Kentucky Educational Television stations across The Bluegrass State, Mississippi ETV in Jackson, PBS channel 8 KUHT in Houston, and PBS channel 3 KBTC in Tacoma that run it on Friday evenings. Internationally, the show is carried on several satellite channels, such as Voice of America TV and was on the London based CNBC Europe.[6] It is also carried by CTV in Christchurch, New Zealand, and by Triangle TV in Auckland, New Zealand.

From the program's start until May 2008, the program originated from WRC-TV, the NBC-owned station in Washington, D.C. Since then, the show is produced at WUSA-TV, the TEGNA-owned CBS affiliate for Washington, D.C.[7]


Regular McLaughlin panelists[edit]

Current normally weekly
Appearing about every 2nd or 3rd week
Former regular panelists

Tony Blankley, Lawrence O'Donnell, Michael Barone, Jack Germond, Rich Lowry, Robert Novak, Morton Kondracke, Fred Barnes, Chris Matthews, Al Hunt, Mark Shields, Michael Kinsley, Monica Crowley, Katty Kay, Susan Ferrechio


Some former guests

Lionel Barber, Arnaud de Borchgrave, John Fund, Arianna Huffington, Joe Klein, Lawrence Kudlow, Dick Morris, Bill Press, Tony Snow, Christopher Hitchens, Rush Limbaugh, Jay Carney, Michael Steele

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "AT LUNCH WITH: The McLaughlin Group; Just Another Talk Show? Wronnnggg! - New York Times". 1992-12-16. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  2. ^ Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan, Meet Dr. Hollywood
  3. ^ "Why America Hates the Press". Frontline. Oct 22, 1996. Retrieved Aug 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Remarks at a Reception for the McLaughlin Group". 1985-10-29. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  5. ^ "The McLaughlin Group". Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  6. ^ "News Headlines". Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  7. ^ 'The McLaughlin Group' Moving to WUSA and WCBS Beginning May 4th

External links[edit]