An Awkward Phone Call from Mom

In the United States, cable TV news shows, for better or for worse (and let’s face it, it’s more for worse), are often formulaic: there’s a host-slash-moderator, a Republican, and a Democrat, and a bunch of predictable opinions shared over the course of the 30 minutes or so. The Democrat talking head will boost the policies and actions of those in their camp while noting the flaws of the Republican Party, its candidates, and its leaders; the Republican, in turn, will do the same, just with the opposite point of view. Perhaps these conversations help elucidate new ideas or elevate stronger opinions, but more often than not, the two sides are more interested in arguing than finding common ground.

On December 16, 2014, C-Span hosted one such of a panel. Washington Journal, one of the station’s largest shows, “provides a forum for lawmakers and journalists to discuss key topics surrounding today’s legislation,” per its website. The guests on the episode have a conversation about the topics of the day, but don’t do so alone; anyone can call into the show and be put on the air, live, to speak with the panelists. On that December day, host Steve Scully welcomed two panelists: Brad, a Democrat, was a former spokesperson for both the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. . Dallas, a Republican, was a campaign strategist and the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. The two didn’t see eye-to-eye on most issues, and certainly not the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), perhaps the most contentious issue of the day; Dallas actively campaigned against the law while Brad would later lead a lobbying group dedicated to expanding it. Throughout the 42-minute program, as you’d expect, the two rarely found any common ground.

But they definitely had something in common. Both were there to promote a documentary about themselves titled “Woodhouse Divided.” Woodhouse, in this case, was their last name; Brad and Dallas were brothers. Their documentary was about how a politically divided family navigates being, well, a family. Most of the conversation was, like in most other such shows, a series of political potshots at the expense of the other candidate. But of course, the family dynamic also came up here and there. For example, a bit less than ten minutes into the show, which you can watch here, Brad Woodhouse said that the two are from “a very boisterous family [. . . ] whether it’s about politics or [Dallas interrupts to add ‘NC State football] athletics or sports” and notes that their mom “is not a big fan of having arguments about politics” as it spreads to the whole table when they’re all together. Dallas agreed.

About six minutes later, the brothers were proven half-right. At about the 16:45 mark in the video above — or click here for the cutdown part of the segment —  Scully took a call from a woman named Joy in North Carolina. Dallas reacted first, saying “hey, a woman from down south!” with approval, but that approval changed once he heard Joy’s voice. The next words out of Dallas’s mouth? “Oh, god. It’s mom.” Both brothers quickly facepalmed, to use the modern parlance as their mom lectured them over their behavior at family holidays, disagreeing with the notion that “all families are like ours.” Then, their mom quipped “I was very glad that this Thanksgiving was the year that you were supposed to go to your in-laws and I’m hoping you’ll have some of this out of your system when you come here for Christmas.”

Scully, the host, quickly jumped in to allay viewers’ concerns that this was a set-up — it wasn’t. Joy Woodhouse called the show on its normal call-in lines, and Scully had no idea that she was his guests’ mother until they validated her claim live on-air. He asked what it was like to raise these two and she simply said “well, it hasn’t be easy.” She then continued “They’re both very passionate about what they believe in, and I love that about them. But I hope that they just kind of get this out of their system today on your program.”

Unfortunately, C-Span didn’t send a reporter to Joy Woodhouse’s place that Christmas, so don’t know how the holiday went. But we can all hope that a few minutes of embarrassing her kids on cable TV won Joy a peaceful holiday.

Bonus fact: The government of Poland has two leaders — its President is the head of state, and the Prime Minister is the head of the government. The division of powers can be complicated to those unfamiliar with the Polish system of government, and from July 2006 to November 2007, there was an additional layer of complication. The President at the time was Lech Kaczyński and the Prime Minister was his identical brother, Jaroslaw Kaczyński. It’s the only time in recorded history where identical siblings held those or similar roles simultaneously. (Unlike the Woodhouse brothers, the Kaczyńskis were part of the same political party.)

From the Archives: How a Nearly Perfect Crime Became Perfect Again: One crime, two brothers.