For every battle the Smothers Brothers won, CBS sought and got revenge. When The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour wanted to open its third season by having Harry Belafonte singing "Don't Stop the Carnival" against a backdrop reel of violent outbursts filmed in and around that summer's Democratic National Convention, CBS not only cut the number completely, but added insult to injury by replacing it with a five-minute campaign ad from Republican presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon.
Politics, and politicians, play a big part in the story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Even though the show poked fun at President Johnson and criticized his Vietnam War policies, LBJ's daughters were fervent fans. Yet more than once the chief executive of the United States called CBS Chairman William S. Paley to exert pressure on the Smothers Brothers. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour even ran its own candidate for president, Pat Paulsen, whose tongue-in-cheek campaign was a brilliant deconstruction of the 1968 presidential race. Paulsen had become popular delivering fake editorials on the show, such as the one in support of network censorship ("The Bill of Rights says nothing about Freedom of Hearing," he told viewers, adding, "This, of course, takes a lot of the fun out of Freedom of Speech"). Paulsen moved effortlessly onto the actual campaign trail, where real candidates such as Robert F. Kennedy got and played with the joke, and the show hired a former California gubernatorial campaign manager to offer behind-the-scenes advice.
With regime changes both at the White House and at the CBS New York headquarters known as Black Rock, the Smothers Brothers' days were numbered. Once Nixon ascended to the presidency, Tom Smothers insists he was targeted in a way that both predated and prefigured Nixon's enemies list and the sneaky tactics of the "Plumbers." Nixon pushed for greater governmental control of broadcast media at the same time well-placed Nixon allies, from new CBS programming chief Robert D. Wood to TV Guide publisher Walter Annenberg, adopted hard-line stances against the sort of envelope-pushing content the Smothers Brothers were trying to present in prime time. Both sides got increasingly, exponentially petulant and combative. Tom Smothers fought too fervently for every word and idea, and slipped obscenities into scripts just to tweak the censors, who promptly removed them. Eventually, Tom lost his own sense of humor while railing against the network suits. CBS executives, on their part, grew impatient and resentful at having to defend or discuss the Smothers Brothers everywhere they went, and began to both change the rules and enforce them ruthlessly.