Reflecting on Some of Jon Stewart’s Best Moments: The Fox and CNN Interviews
As Jon Stewart heads into the final stretch of hosting “The Daily Show,” Truthdig has chosen some of our favorite segments from both his popular Comedy Central news satire and other news shows on which he appeared (usually to the chagrin of those shows).
These clips are meant to celebrate his best moments: Whether he was exposing political dysfunction, excoriating corporate media or showing the folly and corruption of the powerful, Stewart made palpable the wrongdoing within the corporate system. For some, Stewart sometimes missed the mark. His coverage of Occupy Wall Street was inaccurate in the eyes of many who participated in the protests and left a bad taste in the mouths of some of his most ardent supporters. Nevertheless, his contributions will be sorely missed, especially in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Our first two segments are from interviews at CNN and Fox News in which Stewart exposes the harm and fallacy of pretending to provide news.
In the now famous “Crossfire” interview from October 2004, Tucker Carlson and Democratic strategist Paul Begala attempt to beat Stewart at his own game, with disastrous consequences for the sensationalist news program. The Stewart interview was the most watched episode of “Crossfire” that year and went viral online. “Crossfire” was canceled the following January, and Carlson’s contract was not renewed. As soon as Stewart sat down, he began to criticize the style in which “debate” occurred, as well as what he saw as the pretenses and the disingenuous format of the show.
Stewart: You’re doing theater when you should be doing debate. Which would be great. It’s not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I’ll tell you why I think it —
Carlson: You have John Kerry on your show and you’re accusing us of partisan hackery?
Carlson: You have got to be kidding me.
Stewart: You’re on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making prank phone calls. What is wrong with you?
In reference to the 2004 presidential debates:
Stewart: Let me ask you guys again a question ’cause we talked a little bit about, you know, you’re actually doing honest debate and all that. But, after the debates where do you guys head to, right afterwards?
Carlson: The men’s room.
Stewart: Right after that?
Stewart: Spin Alley.
Stewart: No, Spin Alley.
Begala: What are you talking about? You mean at these debates?
Stewart: Yeah, you go to Spin Alley, a place called Spin Alley. Now, don’t you think for people watching at home that’s kinda a drag. That you’re literally walking to a place called Deception Lane. Like it’s Spin Alley. It’s, don’t you see that’s the issue I’m trying to talk to you guys.
In one of our other favorite shows, Stewart is interviewed by Fox’s Chris Wallace in 2011.
Stewart described Fox as “a biased organization relentlessly promoting an ideological agenda under the rubric of being a news organization” and “a relentless, agenda-driven, 24-hour news opinion propaganda delivery system.”
When talking about the biases of The New York Times and The Washington Post, Stewart said, “I think their bias is toward sensationalism and laziness. I wouldn’t say it’s toward the liberal agenda.”
Here is an excerpt from their conversation:
Stewart: … So, here’s my example of what news bias is, in my mind. Three networks, Fox, CNN and MSNBC, are going live to the Nancy Pelosi news conference, because they are sure, coming on the heels of Anthony Weiner resigning, that she is going to make some sort of incredible statement about, y’know, “I’m disappointed in Anthony Weiner,” so they’re all locked on it. And the whole time there’s hand-wringing. Aw, I can’t believe we have to go and do this. The American people don’t care about this, they care about jobs, they care about the economy, that’s what the American people care about. We’re about to go live to Speaker Pelosi, she’s about to do that. She steps up to the podium and says what? “I’m not gonna comment about Anthony Weiner, I’m going to talk about jobs, and I’m going to talk about the economy.” And what did everybody do?
Stewart: So what’s your proof again, about the partisan agenda? And what I do? That’s the embarrassment. The embarrassment is that I’m given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does.
— Posted by Donald Kaufman