“I’m basically just a grandma from Idaho,” says Pam Stout, 66, of Sagle. Yet this Idaho grandmother, a newcomer to politics who heads the Sandpoint Patriots Tea Party group, has recently been thrust into the limelight — first, in February, in an extensive New York Times story about the Tea Party movement, and again last week, when she appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman.
“Dave read that [Times story] and was kind of interested in me,” Stout says. So the Late Show flew Stout and her husband to New York, put her up in the fancy Dream Hotel, and whisked her to into the makeup room at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater. Before she knew it, she was watching Luke Wilson on the monitor backstage (“[he] was really nice”) and wondering what in the world Mr. Letterman might ask her.
Had the interview not been broadcast, uploaded and blogged voraciously last week, she might still be wondering. “It was over really fast,” she says. “They tapped me on the shoulder and I walked out and basically the rest was history.”
The approximately 15-minute interview (below) was civil, sincere and mostly serious. Letterman, who has spent the last six months in a teeth-bared battle with Tea Party darling Sarah Palin, showed gracious restraint with Stout, even when Stout mentioned that Palin might be a good candidate for president in 2012. But Stout stuck to her guns (and her talking points), arguing for free enterprise, decrying the bank bailouts and even offering reluctant defenses of Glenn Beck and the birther movement.
She was especially keen, she says, to combat the popular notion that the Tea Party movement is racist at its roots.
“I came from England when I was almost 11, and I went to Southern California, and I saw what I considered negative treatment of Hispanics, and it really bothered me,” she says. “So as a young girl, I determined that I wouldn’t behave in that way, and my children wouldn’t behave in that way. I’m proud that my children aren’t prejudiced at all. [So] when I’m called a racist, that really bothers me.”
She made a special note of this as Letterman tried to wrap up the interview. “That’s something I wanted to be clear about,” she says.
In the end, though, this grandma from Idaho says her head is still spinning with the excitement of it. “It was actually a fun experience, and I thought he was very nice,” she says of Letterman, who went out of his way to introduce himself backstage before the interview. And “the people in Alan Jackson’s band came and thanked me for the work I was doing and said they were big supporters.”