An ailing John McLaughlin missed his first episode in 34 years as host of his Sunday political free-for-all The McLaughlin Group. This morning’s installment kicked off with the host’s written note to viewers that read “Dear friends of The McLaughlin Group, Dr. McLaughlin here. As the panel’s recent absences attest, I am under the weather. The final issue of this episode has my voice, but please forgive me for its weaker than usual quality. Yet my spirit is strong and my dedication to this show remains absolute!”

Panelist Pat Buchanan then began the week’s political discussion by noting, “This is our first time in 34 years that our distinguished leader Dr. McLaughlin is not in his chair and we miss him. But let’s get on with the show.” (McLaughlin holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University).

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McLaughlin Group via Twitter

McLaughlin’s voice, sounding raspy and slurred, was heard in a pre-taped voiceover introducing a segment on free trade.

In addition to Buchanan, the panel of pundits included the usual weekly group: Eleanor Clift, Clarence Page and Tom Rogan. Rogan closed out the show by saying, “On behalf of the panel we want to say to John we’re thinking of you and you have our very best.” No details were mentioned about the nature of McLaughlin’s ailment.

McLaughlin is the creator, executive producer and host of The McLaughlin Group, which premiered in 1982. The program airs nationally of select CBS-owned stations and on public stations.