Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, made multiple secret visits to the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency, the Virginia-based political blog Politico revealed Tuesday.
“Jon Stewart slipped unnoticed into the White House in the midst of the October 2011 budget fight, summoned to an Oval Office coffee with President Barack Obama that he jokingly told his escort felt like being called into the principal’s office,” the article by Darren Samuelsohn opens. Stewart made another visit to the White House in February 2014, shortly before Obama warned Russia of potential repercussions if it made a bigger military intervention into Ukraine. (RELATED: Is Jon Stewart A Hypocrite On Baltimore?)
Both meetings were private (they were confirmed to Politico by visitor logs), meaning the meetings weren’t publicity stunts but rather opportunities for direct conversation between Stewart and Obama.
The article describes Obama as “cultivating” Stewart to an unusual degree in order to advance the administration’s agenda. At the 2011 visit, for instance, Obama used the meeting as a chance to push his economic plan and “lay the groundwork for his 2012 re-election campaign.”
Even when Obama wasn’t personally meeting with Stewart, contact between the White House and Daily Show was frequent, going well beyond just fielding calls to the White House from show staff. Top Obama aide David Axelrod frequently called and emailed Stewart, and described him as a “useful prod” for the White House. Fellow aide Austan Goolsbee often emailed a friend on the Daily Show staff as well, in what Samuelsohn describes as a “work-the-umps” strategy.
The result? Quite often, Stewart and The Daily Show were effectively working “in concert” with the White House on political matters. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was blunt, telling Politico that “Democrats are worried” they’ll lose a key mouthpiece when Stewart retires from The Daily Show in early August.
The frequent, secret interactions between Stewart and the Obama administration raise questions about the overall neutrality of a comedian who has repeatedly been praised for his ability to “speak truth to power.”
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