'Pod Save America' hosts see possible post-Trump future as 'high-class problem'

BEVERLY HILLS, California — When it comes to his quickly canceled 2012 NBC White House comedy, “1600 Penn,” former Obama joke and speech writer Jon Lovett is taking a page from President Trump’s descriptive tendencies.

“‘1600 Penn’ was a hit. It’s 2018. Anything you want can be true,” Lovett said of the forgotten series during a Television Critics Association summer press tour panel Wednesday. “People love it. They’re still talking about it.”

That’s some of the attitude Lovett and former Obama aides Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor, bring to their popular political podcast, “Pod Save America,” which is coming to HBO for four, hour-long specials this fall. 

The hosts of the podcast, which has had more than 270 million downloads since it launched in January 2017, have heard from many listeners first drawn to politics since President Trump’s election in 2016.

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People say, “I hadn’t paid attention to politics before Trump was elected and now that he’s elected I’m scared or angry and trying to get involved,” Favreau said. “It has been an on-ramp to politics to get the background information they need.”

For the midterm election, the show will visit areas with many Congressional seats in play and will focus on political matters, such as the growing number of women seeking office, and such significant issues as gun violence, as reflected in the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, and immigration, as reflected in family separations at the border.

The hosts are still lining up locations and guests, but promise a more diverse array of people than the panel itself. “Having four white males doesn’t reflect the Democratic Party in any way,” Vietor said. 

The four, who acknowledge coming from a liberal, Democratic perspective, praised talk hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes of MSNBC and Jake Tapper of CNN and podcasts presented by Malcolm Gladwell and The New York Times. 

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Favreau said HBO’s Bill Maher has succeeded in bringing on Republicans and conservatives who “don’t spin conspiracies and lies,” a problem he sees on some cable news shows that try to balance Trump supporters and Democrats on their panels.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series, “Who Is America?,” adds value by showing “there’s a group of people in government who are so shameless they will say or do literally anything,” Vietor said.  

Pfeiffer offered some advice for journalists covering the president: “I wish the press would ask more policy-related questions of Trump, (who) can’t sustain a 30-second discussion of his tax plan (or other policies). They know he can’t answer the question, so they don’t ask the question.”

As for how their Trump-resistance podcast would fare in a post-Trump era, Pfeiffer called that “a high-class problem” and Lovett envisioned the future: “Under President Guy Fieri, there will still be a need for commentary.”

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