The Department of Energy worked long and hard to win Ernest Moniz an appearance on "The Daily Show."
Press aides at the department began emailing producers for the Comedy Central show more than six months before the Energy secretary ended up as a guest on the show in May this year (Greenwire, May 7). Emails and other documents obtained by Greenwire under the Freedom of Information Act pockmarked with redactions show that the pitches from DOE were persistent and pervasive.
In a series of emails beginning in October 2014, Namrata Kolachalam of DOE sent a message to a "Daily Show" employee about having Moniz appear on the program.
"He is a huge fan, and also has a great deal he can talk about regarding climate change, energy policy in the United States and around the world, and why this is such a pressing topic for all Americans," wrote Kolachalam, who is no longer with DOE but is now a Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
"Can you let me know if there is anything else you need, and I will follow up?" she added.
Kolachalam was then copied on a reply with Hillary Kun, co-executive producer for the show. Seemingly, DOE’s request for a Moniz appearance then sat with the late-night television program for months.
In January, the Energy secretary was in the audience for President Obama’s State of the Union address where his wide-eyed expression and famous hairdo were caught on camera. That sparked a "Daily Show" segment where Jon Stewart poked fun at Moniz, exclaiming, "Wait, is that one of the — hold on a second. Is that, is that one of the actual Founding Fathers? Sam mothaf****** Adams, is that you? What? Huh? Actually, that’s the secretary of Energy" (Greenwire, Jan. 26).
The video would go viral on the Web, leading Moniz to later tweet "I learned what it means to become a meme."
Kolachalam jumped on the opportunity. She emailed Kun on Jan. 23 after the segment had aired on television, saying, "We all saw Jon’s clip of Secretary Moniz from the State of the Union … and thought it was hilarious."
She noted Moniz’s tweet and the media attention Stewart’s joke had gotten.
"Just wanted to mention again that he’d love to be on with Jon at some point, and is a huge fan," Kolachalam wrote.
A few days later, Kun responded, "We would love to have the Energy Secretary on the show!"
Within seconds, Kolachalam forwarded Kun’s reply to Bill Gibbons, then DOE’s press secretary.
Gibbons responded with two words: "Hell.Yeah."
Employees with DOE and "The Daily Show" then began to hash out dates for Moniz’s appearance as well as topics that could be discussed during his interview with Stewart.
In an April email to Kun, Kolachalam mentioned that DOE had "been doing a ton of press on Secretary Moniz’s role in the Iran nuclear negotiations," sharing two New York Times articles with the co-executive producer.
By May, Moniz was scheduled to appear on the show, and his staff prepared a memorandum for his pre-interview call with Kun.
The Energy secretary avoided any hair jokes once on the air with Stewart, instead discussing the Iran talks and plugging several of the department’s clean energy programs.
Click here to read the emails between DOE and "The Daily Show."