Jon Stewart gets out-Foxed

The Huffington Post headline proclaimed triumphantly, “Jon Stewart LIVE on Fox News, Tells Host ‘You’re Insane.’” Well yes, Jon Stewart did indeed say that to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace at one point during their riveting discussion yesterday of media bias. But that headline doesn’t come close to capturing how the interview actually went down, and more accurately captures HuffPo’s wishful thinking that their hero would march into the Faux News Evil Empire and kick some serious butt. HuffPo didn’t get its wish. The rest of us, however, were treated to an excellent discussion in which Stewart eventually admitted that many longstanding conservative complaints about the media are valid.

As reported by Jeff Poor on these pages, Stewart admitted that there is “probably” a liberal bias in the media. He admitted that the majority of people working in the media “probably” hold liberal viewpoints. He admitted that to some extent, conservatives are right that they have been “victims of a witch hunt.” He admitted that conservatives are called racists and other names “with an ease that I am uncomfortable with.” He admitted that conservatives have a “real right to be angry” about these things and to feel that they have been vilified. And he admitted that he himself has been guilty of some of these things.

I give Stewart props for eventually reaching the point where he could admit all of this. I’d have given him more props if he didn’t have to be dragged there kicking and screaming. The fact that Stewart eventually got there is a testament to Chris Wallace’s brilliant questioning and dogged refusal to let Stewart off the hook.

Wallace pressed Stewart on his assertion that Fox News is unique among major media organizations in promoting an ideological agenda. Stewart did allow that MSNBC is “attempting” to pursue a liberal agenda, as if to imply that MSNBC is somehow less nefarious than Fox because the former is merely “attempting” to be ideological. Stewart’s point would only make sense if MSNBC were somehow failing in its “attempt” to be ideological. With a primetime lineup that features Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz, MSNBC’s “attempt” to be ideological has clearly been wildly successful.

I had given Stewart credit for lampooning the media’s wild goose chase through Sarah Palin’s emails. It turns out that I had given him too much credit. When pressed by Wallace, Stewart refused to admit that the targeting of Palin for an unprecedented fishing expedition was evidence of the media’s political bias. Stewart attempted to minimize the importance of the fiasco by calling the Palin emails “fluff.” He completely missed the point that the media had been salivating to find not “fluff” but damaging dirt on Palin, as if she were their political opponent.

At another point, Wallace played a clip of Stewart mimicking GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain in an exaggerated African-American accent. Stewart’s rant, in his best minstrel show voice, concluded with: “I am Herman Cain, and I do not like to read!”

Stewart seemed genuinely stung when Wallace jokingly asked him whether he was planning “a remake of Amos ‘n’ Andy.” Stewart defensively asked Wallace why he didn’t show the other voices that Stewart does on the show, such as his “New York voice” or his “Chinese guy voice.” Right, Jon. That side-splitting “Chinese guy voice” of yours is a great way to refute charges of racial insensitivity. That Stewart would make such a glaring unforced error shows how much Wallace had thrown him off his game.

  • cmccartn

    Also, Matthews admitted in the un-edited interview that Fox has a conservative bias.. or as he put it, they are a counter-weight to MSNBC and liberal Bias

  • cruzking2000

    Wow, where to begin! Jon Stewart just hammered Wallace, and this “column writer”, David Cohen, sees it completely different? Jon makes the obvious case and Wallace even admits Faux News is deliberately a hard right-wing “news” outlet to “counter the librul media” — an admission he thinks ALL the other media is “librul, left-wing”. That’s jr high school stuff! Jon was always, with his show, playing it down the middle. You would know this if you watched his interview with Rachel Maddow. Comparing Wallace to Maddow, Maddow clearly wins with intellect and style. Which, by the way, was much more interesting than this one. In fact, Mr. Cohen, that’s an interview you need to watch, and should have watched, before writing this lousy column.

    • vandi

      Oh, c’mon. Stewart’s fans think everything he does is great, but even Stewart recognized that he didn’t come off well to more objective viewers. He complained that he looked like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and blamed the editing (oh, the irony!). Stewart was reduced to arguing that yes, there is liberal bias in the media, and yes, conservatives haven’t gotten a fair shake in the media, but it’s all OK because the liberal media aren’t activists. Only an ardent Stewart fan would think that makes sense.

  • timotee

    I like Stewart–I think he is smart, & he is funny. But he does increasingly exhibit a tendency to behave like a rebellious, smirking adolescent (who thiks the teacher is an idiot) when he appears with the likes of Chris Wallace and Bill O’Reilly. If Stewart thinks appearing on Fox is beneath him, he has the choice to not do so. If he chooses to appear, he should conduct himself accordingly. This piece is one of the few with the guts to call Stewart out on his conduct.

  • Iowa48

    Stewart did appear to be somewhat hysterical as he meandered and stumbled through his tortured defense of the blatantly obvious bias displayed by NBC and MSNBC and the lame stream media. Yes, as Stewart asserted, NBC gives one side of a story and Fox News gives another side. NBC gives its side of the story consisting of lies, distortion, obfuscation and Democratic Party propaganda and taliking points. Fox News gives the other side of the story i.e. truth and facts. Yes, Fox News has an opiniion side of journalism as well as a news side of journalism, whereas the lame stream media has totally lost perspective regarding the difference. Lame stream media no longer engages in critical fact based news reporting, and it exists as mere propaganda toadies and hacks for the Dems. Stewart was either being disingenuous or he is less intelligent than he appears. His critique of media bias makes him look like a dishonest hack, and not even close to being amusing.

  • jmk1502

    What Stewart was saying is 100% accurate: FOX News is a partisan, activist right-wing news outlet. MSNBC has attempted to copy its template for the left, while entities like the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. are NOT partisan or activist.

  • phillygirl16

    Stewart did not ask why Wallace didn’t show his “New York voice” or “Chinese guy voice” to refute charges of racial sensitivity. Stewart asked because he wanted to refute charges that he was liberally biased. Stewart didn’t just poke fun at a black man, he poked fun at a black GOP presidential candidate. By offering up other races/voices/etc, he showed that he doesn’t solely target republicans – he makes fun of everyone. It’s his job. He’s a comedian first, a liberal second – that distinction was his major point. His job (to entertain) comes before his personal political opinion. FOX, however, does the opposite. FOX’s job as a news station is to fairly inform, yet the station often puts its political opinion BEFORE this job, often blindly advocating conservatism instead of presenting facts clearly and fairly. Shouldn’t their job come first? FOX has a responsibility to be informative, not Republican. Sure, the station is allowed to have a conservative tint (much like the The Daily Show has a liberal tint), but its main job must first be accomplished. As Stewart pointed out, and as shown in plenty of polls, FOX viewers are the most consistently misinformed. I think it’s time FOX dropped it’s agenda-driven GOP-loving shtick and focused on what’s important: fairly informing people. That’s their job.

    Also, about Stewart’s “activist” rally? Once again, it’s comedy, not political agenda. Tell me how “I Fear School Lunch” and “Don’t You Hate Pants?” are signs advocating extreme Democratic ideas: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/30/the-funniest-signs-at-the_n_776490.html#s170097&title=By_a_middle

    • Lana

      What is your unbiased, straight news source?

    • Celsius

      How would you know that Fox viewers are the most consistently misinformed? I think that you should go back to school and find out what they taught in high school. Analytical abilities are critical to attempted analysis.

      • cruzking2000

        We have known this for years, and through several polls, buddy. “Fox isn’t last on the list, although it’s close — only 35 percent of Fox viewers earned a high knowledge rating, which was tied with local television news and was one point ahead of the network morning shows.”
        In other words, Faux News viewers are tied with those who know the least amount of news — those who only watch local TV news, and little else.

    • minicapt

      How much did Jon Stewart pay you to present this premature eulogy?


  • riseabove

    Someone who made a conscious decision to share a room for more than one day, or one hour, or for one minute with Anthony Weiner is calling somebody else insane?

  • cmccartn

    his bread and butter is not taken people out of context, i’d love for you to post just a couple examples of him taking people out of context. you’ll have a hard time finding any, even though his entire catalogue is available on the daily show website

    • alpha_male

      Capitalization, punctuation and spelling! Tell your parents they wasted their money for your middle school education.

      And go back to the basement.

      • cmccartn

        you’re a sad person

    • vandi

      Yes, Stewart does take people out of context: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/223461/i-got-chopped-comedy/jonah-goldberg. He can dish it out but he can’t take it.

      • cmccartn

        that is one solid example (where things may have been taken out of context), which of course they stopped doing several years ago. They always through full interviews up on the web now.
        But, they don’t routinely take things out of context.. as bread and butter would imply

  • CrazyHungarian

    I’m sure that much of the media consider themselves as mainstream or centrist. After all, almost everyone they know think just like them. To idealists, left, right and center are all relative to their position.