Meghan McCain presents award in D.C. — while plugging her talk show

Meghan McCain with Participant Media CEO Jeff Berk. (Morris Melvin)
Meghan McCain with Participant Media CEO Jim Berk at the Freedom House annual awards dinner. The company owns the network that airs her new talk show, “Raising McCain,” her latest career endeavor. (Morris Melvin)

She called her book “Dirty Sexy Politics” and has weathered a minor Vegas-related scandal, but when Meghan McCain celebrated her 29th birthday in D.C. on Wednesday, it was all business.

Attending the Freedom House annual awards dinner at the Newseum, McCain played a supporting role: Presenting a trophy to Participant Media — which owns the network that airs her talk show, “Raising McCain” — for its efforts in raising awareness about human rights. But the GOP’s favorite party girl/talk show host couldn’t resist throwing in a little of her own personality into the tribute.

“This is the first time I have ever worked for any company, ever — and when I say company, I include my father’s campaign — that has ever only asked that I be honest and truthful in entirety to myself,” McCain told the audience. “Nobody has ever wanted me to be completely uncensored. For better or for worse, you guys hired me, and that’s all I’ve ever given you.”

Meghan McCain, presenting an award to Participant Media. (Morris Melvin) Meghan McCain, presenting an award to Participant Media. (Morris Melvin)

It was one of the few times the crowd of about 200 — awardees, non-profit staffers, politicians — chuckled during the serious evening honoring social activism. But who could blame them? John McCain’s famously outspoken daughter has extended the 15 minutes of fame her father’s 2008 presidential campaign granted her into a full-fledged career.

It has included a little bit of everything: A candid blog (where she chronicled the behind-the-scenes on the campaign trail, including makeup tips and thoughts on politicians’ fashion choices); writing books; a Daily Beast column; Internet fights with Ann Coulter; a contributor gig on MSNBC; and most recently, the docu-talk show on Pivot, the newly-launched network for Millennials. Even the occasional controversy, such as that Vegas incident in 2010, when she canceled on a speaking engagement to party in Sin City. (“That’s a true story, I admit that,” she said recently on her show, and blamed getting caught on “drunk tweeting.”)

Having trouble picturing other political offspring making the same admission? It’s what sets McCain apart and has kept her in the spotlight for so long — without having to change at all over the past five years. She’s still willing to talk about anything, no matter how personal, or controversial, or whether it clashes with her dad’s political views. (He’s a guest on her show Saturday night.)

McCain’s disarming, energetic demeanor charmed the audience Wednesday. After the awards dinner, McCain and her publicist tried to make a quick exit, but were surrounded by admirers. “You look phenomenal,” one young woman gushed to McCain, clad in a three-quarter-length wine-colored dress, hair in a high bun, and heels. “That color was made for you.”

And we had to ask: Is this really how you’re celebrating your birthday?

Nope, she told us. “I’m going to Vegas on Friday.”

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Michael Livingston · October 24, 2013