Before his foreign policy speech from the deck of the U.S.S. Iowa on Tuesday, Donald Trump was introduced by no less a Hollywood star than Wink Martindale. Yes, the Wink Martindale.
Hm? Oh. He was a game show host. The problem with being a game show host is that it's mostly bloopers that become immortal, so here's a clip of Martindale in his heyday, stumbling over the word "orangutan."
On Tuesday, Martindale told Trump's audience a few jokes and then introduced the "National Anthem Girl" to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Light work for a long-time host.
But why Trump? Martindale joins a surprisingly crowded phalanx of former and current game show hosts who get involved in politics -- many representing the conservative side of the spectrum.
The most vocal is Chuck Woolery, one-time host of "Love Connection," who now spends an awful lot of time on Twitter bad-mouthing President Obama and the left. (Woolery's Twitter background is the Constitution and an American flag.)
America has been in uncharted waters ever since Obama took over!
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) September 11, 2015
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) September 12, 2015
The left hates the Constitution. The right capitulates.We in the middle don't undersramd it. Only the ones trying to pervert it know it well
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) August 25, 2015
Pat Sajak has used money earned as host of "Wheel of Fortune" to make large campaign contributions to Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Sajak also offers his critiques of climate change on Twitter.
Weather isn't climate. Weather can be colder but climate warming. Climate is warming whether the weather is…um, uh...
— Pat Sajak (@patsajak) February 15, 2015
There's Drew Carey, the host of "The Price is Right," who contributed regularly to former Ohio governor and senator George Voinovich (R) and backed Ron Paul's 2008 presidential bid. The man that preceded him in that job, Bob Barker, endorsed Florida Rep. David Jolly (R) in Jolly's special election fight in 2013. "Jeopardy"'s Alex Trebek has also given to Republicans, though he says that he's politically independent. Ben "Bueller?" Stein hosted "Win Ben Stein's Money" well after he was a well-known Hollywood conservative. (The emcee of that show? A younger Jimmy Kimmel.)
Last year, in the wake of Sajak's climate tweets, the Daily Beast's Rebecca Dana wrote perhaps the definitive piece on politically active conservative game show hosts. "To have the right sensibility to be a game-show host, you do have to have a belief in rugged individualism," Indiana University professor Olaf Hoerschelmann told her. "Either you make it or you’re not worth it."
Maybe! But there's another possibility. Maybe the people listed above are well-to-do, older white men who mostly live in Southern California, which is about as concise a description of "someone likely to be a Republican" as is possible. Oh, and they're vocal.
After all, there's some selection bias at play here. Regis Philbin, former "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" host, has made donations to a Republican -- and a Democrat. Tom Bergeron, who hosts 42,000 shows at any given moment, mostly gives to Democrats. The late Richard Dawson of "Family Feud" was a strong liberal, as was "Match Game's" Gene Rayburn. Perhaps there are disproportionately more Republicans in the ranks of former game show hosts. Perhaps there are more now. Perhaps we just notice them more and read into it.
Like with Wink Martindale. BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray reports that Martindale was there because he'd been invited to speak by a friend with ties to a group called "Friends of Abe" -- and that Martindale wasn't doing it because of Trump. "Don’t know him, just appreciate what he’s saying," Martindale said, "and in large regard, many points I agree with, some of course I don’t."
That's the sort of even-handed geniality you might expect from a game show host.