Surely, no one’s said anything crazier since then … oh, dear.
Jon Stewart: The Most Trusted Name In Fake News
In July 2009, Time magazine held an online poll asking who America’s most trusted newscaster was; Jon Stewart won with 44 percent of the vote.Comedy Central
In July 2009, Time magazine held an online poll asking who America’s most trusted newscaster was; Jon Stewart won with 44 percent of the vote.October 4, 2010
On Oct. 30, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will host dueling rallies on the National Mall. Called “The Rally to Restore Sanity” and the “March to Keep Fear Alive,” respectively, the two rallies closely mimic Glenn Beck’s recent “Restoring Honor Rally,” also held in Washington, D.C.
Stewart sat down with Terry Gross on Sept. 29 in front of a live audience at New York City’s 92nd Street Y to discuss his time on The Daily Show, his role in the media, and the upcoming rally — which is being billed as “Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement.”
“Like everything that we do, the march is merely a construct,” he says. “It’s merely a format, in the way the book is a format, a show is a format … to be filled with the type of material that Stephen and I do and the point of view [that we have]. People have said, ‘It’s a rally to counter Glenn Beck.’ It’s not. What it is was, we saw that and thought, ‘What a beautiful outline. What a beautiful structure to fill with what we want to express in live form, festival form.”
For the past 11 years, Stewart has been expressing his opinions nightly on The Daily Show, which consistently ranks among the top programs viewed by the 18-34 age demographic. His quick wit and biting satire have taken the once-obscure fake-news show and made it an influential voice in American humor and politics.
To make the bits that go into the nightly show, Stewart says, the writers and producers follow a daily schedule that includes a lot of research, writing and rewriting.
Terry Gross interviewed Jon Stewart on Sept. 29 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.Joyce Culver/92nd Street Y
Terry Gross interviewed Jon Stewart on Sept. 29 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
“You’d be incredibly surprised at how regimented our day is and how the infrastructure of the show is mechanized,” he says. “People say, The Daily Show, you guys just sit around and make jokes,’ but to weed through all of this material … and decide what to do, we have a very strict day that we have to adhere to. And by doing that, it gives us the freedom to improvise.”
Each day at 9 a.m., Stewart sits with his writers and producers. They go over all of the previous day’s top news stories and how they’ve been covered by the 24-hour news channels and other news programs.
“The 9 o’clock is to kind of rehash the analysis we were going over the night before, to see if the premises and hypotheses we came up with the night before have come to pass, and what’s the video evidence,” Stewart says. “And we take that and we start to knit it together for writing assignments. And those writing assignments are usually coming back in at 11:30, at which point we begin to read them. Then we go over the notes of how we’re going to attack it. The day basically goes as sort of a little dance between writing and rewriting and including all of the other elements — graphics and other things.”
The final hours before the 6 p.m. live taping are spent rewriting chunks of the script that didn’t work during the dress rehearsal, or adding material that the staff has found between writing sessions. Sometimes, Stewart says, entire elements are completely reworked during the show’s rewrite — and then performed for the first time in front of the studio audience.
But even though The Daily Show often comes up with facts and stories missed by other news sources, Stewart says, it would be wrong to describe what he does as “journalism.”
“We don’t do anything but make the connections,” he says. “We’re just going off our own instinct of, ‘What are the connections to this that make sense?’ And this really is true: We don’t fact-check [and] look at context because of any journalistic criteria that has to be met; we do that because jokes don’t work when they’re lies. We fact-check so when we tell a joke, it hits you at sort of a gut level — not because we have a journalistic integrity, [but because] hopefully we have a comedic integrity that we don’t want to violate.”
Stewart is the co-author of America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democratic Inaction and Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race. He also hosted the 78th and 80th Academy Awards and has received two Peabody Awards for his work on The Daily Show’s election coverage in 2000 and 2004.
More ‘Daily Show’ on ‘Fresh Air’
On similarities between himself and Glenn Beck
“He’s a reaction to what he feels like is the news, and so are we. We actually share quite a bit in common in terms of, not point of view necessarily, but reason for being. We’re both in some ways an op-ed. We consider ourselves editorial cartoonists in some respect. Not him, but the show. Op-ed cartoonists, or the Messiah. We’re both different. I very much wanted to avoid the idea that [the march] would be a reaction to him. ‘Cause I don’t think that’d be fair to him and it’s not meant to ridicule activism or the Tea Party movement or religious people.”
On deconstructing Beck
“The beautiful thing about what he does is, it’s very difficult to argue with his facts. It’s the conclusions [that are problematic]. … It’s that slippery slope. … So what you do is, you just grab together facts and put them together and then do a grab bag of conclusions. Everything is discovered as evidence of secret plots, of secret things that could be occurring.”
On Christine O’Donnell
“The last thing that I would suggest is that her witchcraft or masturbation stance should be what we should be thinking about or focusing on, and I think that’s an enormous mistake that the Democrats will make. We like to sit around the office and we have a little game called ‘How will the Democrats blow it?’ And that’s the way they’ll do it. They’ll think somehow that that will resonate with voters, that 20 years ago Christine O’Donnell on MTV said ‘Masturbation is a sin.’ And they’ll play it, and they’ll ridicule it, and the voters will be like, ‘Yeah, I don’t have a job.’ That’s how they’ll blow it.”
On politicians and the media
“I think it made me less political and more emotional. The [more] you spend time with the political [world] and media, the less political you become and the more viscerally upset you become at corruption. I don’t consider it political, because ‘political’ I always sort of note as a partisan endeavor. But I have become increasingly unnerved by the depth of corruption that exists at many different levels. I’m less upset with politicians than [with] the media. I feel like politicians — the way I explain it, is when you go to a zoo and a monkey throws feces, it’s a monkey. But when the zookeeper is standing right there and he doesn’t say, ‘Bad monkey’ — somebody’s gotta be the zookeeper. I feel much more strongly about the abdication of responsibility by the media than by political advocates. They’re representing a constituency. Our culture is just a series of checks and balances. The whole idea that we’re in a battle between tyranny and freedom — it’s a series of pendulum swings. And the swings have become less drastic over time. That’s why I feel, not sanguine but at least a little bit less frightful, in that our pendulum swings have become less and less. But what has changed is the media’s sense of their ability to be responsible arbiters. I think they feel fearful. I think there’s this whole idea now that there’s a liberal media conspiracy, and I think they feel if they express any authority or judgment, which is what I imagine is editorial control, they will be vilified.”
On home vs. work
“You’d be surprised at how easily I turn it off when I go home. … The kids and I, we watch The Wizards of Waverly Place, and I don’t think about it again. … The real challenge is when I’m at work, I’m at work. I’m locked in, I’m ready to go, I’m focused. When I’m at home, I’m locked in and I’m ready to go and I’m focused on home. We don’t watch the show. We don’t watch the news. We don’t do any of that stuff. I sit down, I play Barbies. And sometimes the kids will come home and play with me.”
Fox News has generously placed the full, unedited conversation between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart online, so we can see precisely how unfairly and deviously Fox edited the interview in order to weaken Stewart’s case: A lot!
Last night on his show—Part Two of a ludicrously overhyped “faceoff” between O’Reilly and Stewart in which Stewart attempted, among other things, to present a critique of Fox as a fear-mongering GOP messaging operation—O’Reilly boasted that his edit of their 42-minute interview for broadcast was “a fair cut” and invited viewers to have a look at the unedited version online to judge for themselves: “Some of these idiots in the press who hate us, ‘O’Reilly cut the interview to make Stewart look’—OK, all of that is bull. It’s a fair cut. And then when you watch the cut and watch the whole interview you’ll see it.”
So we took him up on the offer, and guess what? If by “fair cut” O’Reilly means “cut in a manner that left some of Stewart’s best lines, most effective arguments, and most convincing evidence out of the interview and hidden from the broadcast audience,” then he’s absolutely right.
Here’s the best exchange of the whole interview, in which Stewart gets O’Reilly to admit that he thinks Barack Obama believes in “tyranny and socialism,” and then asks him why Obama’s most generous spending has been to bail out banks. He closed with this unanswerable question: “How many tyrants do you know that really suffer because they can’t get cloture?” O’Reilly rejoindered with a lame joke about NBC, because what else could he do? None of this made the air:
There were also plenty of sharp points from Stewart that were edited down to, um, duller points. Take this exchange, from the Fox News cut:
STEWART: Here’s the brilliance - here’s the brilliance of Fox News. What you have been able to do, you and Dr. Ailes, have been able to mainstream conservative talk radio.
O’REILLY: Why wouldn’t John McCain come on this program during the last campaign? Why did he dodge us and not come on if you - (inaudible), if we’re in business to help the GOP, he wouldn’t come in.
STEWART: But you’re not in the business of John McCain. He is not GOP enough for you. You’re in the business to help Sarah Palin.
Here’s the unedited version, which includes Stewart’s cogent analysis of how Fox introduces noxious GOP talking points during Fox and Friends—he cites specific examples that the Daily Show has mocked, like Gretchen Carlson’s handwringing over the Russian derivation of the word “czar”—and then picks them up during the so-called “hard news” shows under the guise that it’s something people are talking about:
And to watch the Fox News cut of this exchange, you’d think O’Reilly scored a minor point by mocking Stewart’s repeated use of the word “cyclonic”
O’REILLY: Cavuto sane?
STEWART: Being the thinnest kid at fat camp. So let’s just get that straight. Here is what Fox has done through their cyclonic, perpetual…
O’REILLY: We’re back to the cyclonic.
STEWART: Their cyclonic perpetual emotion machine that is a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week. They’ve taken reasonable concerns about this president and this economy and turned it into a full-fledged panic attack about the next coming of Chairman Mao. Explain to me why that is the narrative of your network?
Here’s what Stewart really said about Neil Cavuto’s practice of raising “Is Obama a Stalinist?”-style questions:
I know what this is. I come from Jersey—it’s the same thing: “I’m not saying your mother’s a whore. I’m just saying she has sex for money. With people.” [F]ox News used to be all about, you don’t criticize a president during wartime. It’s unacceptable, it’s treasonous, it gives aid and comfort to the enemy. All of a sudden, for some reason you can run out there and say, “Barack Obama is destroying the fabric of this country.”
Of course, Fox had to cut something. But they left in a lengthy and stupid bit about Jon Stewart being O’Reilly’s vice president, and all sorts of lame O’Reilly banter. To his credit, O’Reilly did repeatedly point his viewers to the full interview online, so it’s not like he’s exactly trying to hide anything. More like he wants to look good on TV, which is basically the only thing he’s ever cared about aside from smearing deep-fried chickpea balls on naked underlings in the shower.
UPDATE: Here are some more clips, none of which made air. The most on-point is this one, in which O’Reilly goes after Stewart for “taking a clip, cutting it up, and making someone look like an idiot.” Stewart used a clip of O’Reilly for instance, “criticizing the Bush protesters—but you didn’t use the whole clip.” Because in order to fairly represent the views of a commentator, you have to use the full clip. (No, the O’Reilly edit didn’t unfairly present Stewart—it just deliberately removed his most effective arguments.)
Stewart also (genially) went after O’Reilly personally, as opposed to critiquing Fox News. Here’s a particularly spectacular moment that didn’t make the cut because, we assume, Stewart made O’Reilly look stupid for claiming to live among “the folks.”
O’REILLY: Do you know any Tea Party people?
STEWART: Yes, I do.
O’REILLY: Really? Down in Greenwich Village there are Tea Party people?
STEWART: Down in Greenwich Village? Let me tell you something, Bill—I’ll give you four blocks of Greenwich Village, and I’ll put that up against four blocks around your house—
STEWART: No, your house now.
O’REILLY: Oh, Levittown is where I was brought up.
STEWART: Well, you don’t live there any more brother.
Here, O’Reilly tries to make the case that Stewart would require bodily protection if he went to Charleston, S.C., presumably because he’s Jewish or something? Stewart calls the “real America” meme “idiotic”:
Stewart on Fox News’ “hyperventilating” about Khalid Sheikh Muhammad being tried in the U.S.: “He’s not Magneto—Khalid Sheikh Muhammad isn’t going to sprout wings and fly out and start shooting buildings with lasers.”
And here’s how he tries to compliment O’Reilly on what he sees as his relative level-headedness in the midst of the maelstrom of white rage that is Fox News:
Thanks go to Gawker video interns Aman Ellis and Jessica Poolt for carefully logging the full interview.
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Jon Stewart’s planned rally to ‘restore sanity’ just got a big endorsement from the White House. AP Photo
RICHMOND — President Barack Obama seemed to offer a ringing endorsement Wednesday for “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart’s upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity – although he didn’t get the name quite right.
“I was amused — Jon Stewart, you know, the host of The Daily Show, apparently he’s going to host a rally called something like Americans in favor of a return to sanity, or something like that,” Obama told a crowd gathered around a living room in a comfortable suburban home. “And his point was 70 percent of the people – it doesn’t matter what political affiliation –70 percent of folks are just like you. They go about their business. They work hard every day. They’re looking after their families. They don’t go around calling people names. They don’t make stuff up.”
The session was Obama’s final – and friendliest – small-group suburban discussion that took him through Ohio, New Mexico and Iowa. White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One the president will likely field a few more rounds of casual, unscripted lawn-chair gatherings in the coming months.
The goal of the gatherings is to give the president an intimate forum to discuss his policies, including education reform, the sweeping health care overhaul, and the economy. But the groups don’t always toss Obama softball questions: in New Mexico, one woman asked Obama to describe why he is a Christian, and in Iowa several members asked about government intrusion, challenged his plan to tax the rich and asked him how he intends to eliminate poverty.
In Richmond, the president discussed the rancorous political discourse in Washington: it must be fixed.
Both the right and left have used the president as a political punching bag: conservative TV host Glenn Beck once called Obama a racist who hates whites and accused him of embracing a “perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” while liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow repeatedly shreds the administration for its muddled stance on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from serving openly in the armed forces.
But Obama takes particular issue with Fox News, home to some of his fiercest critics like Beck and Sean Hannity.
In a Rolling Stone interview this week, said Fox News is “part of a tradition” of a free American press with a “very clear, undeniable point of view.” But he said the right-leaning network has “a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive” for the nation. He also said in the interview that Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, is more concerned with profit rather than journalistic standards or ethics: “I suspect that if you ask Mr. Murdoch what his number-one concern is, it’s that Fox is very successful.”
Obama told his living-room audience that pundits who say outrageous, provocative things – liberals as well as conservatives – are being rewarded with more TV time and book deals. But he noted that Republicans made a tactical decision to block his agenda no matter what, and “from just a raw, political point of view, it’s been a pretty successful strategy.”
Reflecting his 2004 DNC convention speech that launched him to the national stage, Obama reiterated that there aren’t “red states” and “blue states.”
“I believe that so profoundly,” he said.
“Louie Gohmert wants to protect America from terror babies, but Anderson Cooper keeps interrupting him with questions and facts.”