The Buzz

January 27, 2014

BUZZ: 'Daily Show' interviews SC Policy Council boss Ashley Landess

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to

Ashley Landess flew to New York last week to record a segment for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

The executive director of the S.C. Policy Council, a libertarian think tank known for its opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act, Landess said the show wanted to interview her as an expert from a state that has refused to expand Medicaid.

"The premise was they sort of thought those of us opposing Medicaid expansion, we might have some good points but, gosh, our message is really a downer," Landess said, referring to the state's decision to deny taxpayer-funded health insurance for roughly 250,000 South Carolinians. "So they wanted to help come up with a more creative ad campaign for that message."

Landess, who said she was interviewed by Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal, said she did not know when the piece would air.

She said most of the questions were about why she did not want "free money," referring to the billions of dollars the federal government would spend in South Carolina if the state agreed to expand Medicaid. (The cost to S.C. taxpayers would eventually be in the hundreds of millions, according to estimates)

"At one point, the guy says something about what if the federal government had a bucket and you were on fire, what would you do then? ... He said, 'Would you want them to throw it on you,'" Landess said. "I said, 'I don't know, is it water or gasoline in the bucket?' "

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has been on The Colbert Report, but that was mostly a friendly interview about her new book with Stephen Colbert, a Charleston native. The Daily Show, however, is known for political satire that is often not kind to those who agree to be interviewed.

But Landess said she saw it as an opportunity to get her message out to a new group of people.

"More than a third of Americans actually admit to getting their news from this show," she said. "We have to get in front of new audiences. ... It was worth it to me if people can hear, for the first time some of them, that we are $17 trillion in debt at the federal level, that you have politicians designing a health care program and, by the way, it is really really poor-quality health care.

"If those points get out there at all, then it’s worth it," Landess said. "And if they are going to make fun of me a little bit? Please. You know that there are anonymous bloggers who get paid in this state to talk about how tired I look. At least Jon Stewart will be clever about it."

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