Jon Stewart collected his many media accolades this week following the announcement he's leaving as host of The Daily Show, which he's anchored for 16 years. The Comedy Central cornerstone, where comedy and politics intersect, has been rightfully toasted for its groundbreaking path and wide cultural influence. But I don't think there's a way to spin the departure as anything but discouraging news for progressives and their voice in the media.
As a viewer, I understand why Stewart is walking away. The show had started a feel a little creaky. And frankly, how can it not after sixteen years and more than 2,000 episodes intensely focused on the quickening news cycle. But as someone who's concerned about the public dialogue, and especially concerned about conservative misinformation, the news of Stewart's pending exit is troubling. It's particularly dismaying coming on the heels of Stephen Colbert's recent departure from Comedy Central.
Over the last decade, Stewart and Colbert emerged as the Mantle and Maris of political satire, revolutionizing the way viewers, especially young ones, consume news. (For years, both Stewart and Colbert drew more 18-24 year-old viewers than late-night talk shows on ABC, CBS and NBC; an impressive feat for cable programs.)
The duo's departures are disheartening because their satirical and often fearless work proved instrumental in spearheading progressive arguments and critiques. The two anchors helped spotlight issues, call out epic Republican bouts of hypocrisy, and undress Fox News in a way previous left-leaning media voices hadn't been able to. (And yes, they also called out Democrats with regularity.)
That's why I would argue that Stewart and Colbert represented two of the most influential American liberal voices in the last half-century. Why? (Aren't they just comedians!) Mostly because of their national television platform and because their shows attracted millions of viewers. But also because the hosts became cultural icons. And let's face it, liberalism hasn't always been synonymous with "funny" and "cool." But thanks to the Comedy Central dynamic duo, they provided the laugh track for national debates about the minimum wage, about health care, about pre-emptive wars, and about an endless array other hot topics.
Being funny and famous on TV in America allows you to open all kinds of doors for discussion.
From the February 11 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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From the April 21 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart lambasted Fox News' ongoing campaign to shame food stamp recipients, offering the network tips to prevent future distortions about the program: "Food stamps are used for food. It's a fact you can remember with this little mnemonic I use: FOOD. It stands for, 'Food stamps can only be used for Food, Oh Oh Dummy.'"
On the March 4 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart highlighted the hypocrisy of Fox's many complaints about the food stamp program, known as SNAP -- the network has both criticized the program for allowing the purchase of unhealthy food and for allowing the purchase of food at organic markets, leaving Stewart wondering, "What the right mixture of quality and class-based shame should poor people aim for in their meal planning?"
The host called out Fox for pushing various distortions about SNAP benefits, such as the myths that they can be used to "buy things like iPads or cigarettes" or gambling at Vegas casinos. Stewart noted that the rules of the program shouldn't be difficult to remember: "Food stamps are used for food."
Indeed, Fox has engaged in a long-term campaign to demonize and shame SNAP recipients, one that carefully toes the Republican party line to help prop up harmful policy measures. Fox's attacks were even cited in a Republican policy memo as justification for slashing SNAP funding just days before House Republicans voted to cut $39 billion from the program.
And now, as the network devotes ample airtime to previewing Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) upcoming budget proposal -- which shows no signs of deviating from his past efforts to push dramatic reductions in SNAP spending - it's doubtful that Fox's food stamp attacks will subside.
On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart lampooned Fox & Friends' latest attempt to continue the dishonest narrative based on President Obama's recent comments by purporting to provide more context to Obama's remarks which Fox & Friends initially deceptively edited.
Stewart pointed out that Fox, once again deceptively edited remarks made by the President and that these newest edited remarks had become a corner stone of the Romney campaign. The addition of "context" by Fox & Friends still left out crucial components of Obama's comments, and further muddied the water, or as Stewart put it, the context Fox & Friends provided was "not context. That's just different no context."
From the July 25 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart mocked Fox News for falsely accusing President Obama of hypocrisy regarding recent administration changes to immigration policy.
Stewart pointed out that Fox had deceptively edited comments by Obama. As a result, Fox left the false impression that the president didn't believe his administration could use its discretion to allow certain young immigrants to stay in the country.
Stewart pointed out that Fox's edited video cut Obama off "just before he very clearly says he can do the exact thing he just did."
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From the December 6 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
From the October 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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From the September 21 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
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Last night on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Jon Stewart called out the broadcast media for failing to include Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) in the top tier of potential candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. One of the people Stewart called out was Bret Baier. Stewart accused Baier of giving a "smirk and an eye roll" after Paul promised to bring troops home during the GOP presidential debate that Baier co-moderated.
Stewart's criticism appeared to hit home. The very next day Bret Baier appeared on Fox News' Happening Now and stated: "One person to not discount, and we don't, is Congressman Ron Paul." Baier added: "There has been a lot of media criticism about the media coverage of Congressman Paul and I think that is a fair assessment."
Baier also asserted that Paul "will be a factor throughout this race."
Following Baier's lead, Happening Now host Jenna Lee reported on a recent spike in sales for Texas Governor Rick Perry's book since he entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination. She then noted that other candidates have written books as well, singled out Ron Paul's book for mention, and promised to check "and see if they've probably gotten a bump up as well."
Bret Baier responded to Jon Stewart's comments on Twitter:
Funny - but my smirk there was NOT over what congressman Paul said - it was ovr the fact that i couldn't control the crowd outbursts - during the breaks -i had asked them 5 times 2 hold applause - stewart misinterpreted it RT @RayZorback @Bret_Baier did U C John Stewart comment on Ron Paul vs media? He pokes fun at U 2 (in gd fun). It's hilarious. http://j.mp/p5m23V
According to Fox News, the media is inflicted with an anti-Christian and/or pro-Muslim bias. Their evidence? "The mainstream media hammered the fact that the Norway shooter is a Christian, but they seem to be ignoring the fact that the Fort Hood copycat is a Muslim," said Fox host Clayton Morris today, in reference to Naser Jason Abdo, the soldier recently charged with planning an attack on Fort Hood.
Fox not only claimed that news outlets are "ignoring" Abdo's religious faith, but that they are actually "hiding the fact" that he is Muslim. Fox also hosted Tim Groseclose, author of "Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind," to discuss this alleged media bias, which Groseclose attributed to "political correctness," adding: "It's not in vogue to be Christian... but it is somewhat in vogue to be sympathetic to Muslims among the far left."
Here's the problem: I couldn't find a single mainstream media outlet that is "leaving out" the fact that Abdo is Muslim ... unless these are not the mainstream media: New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS.
That's right. Fox just made it up. Apparently the opportunity to combine two of Fox's favorite narratives -- the persecution of Christianity and liberal media bias - was too good to let the facts intervene.
Last week on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Jon Stewart noticed that Fox News responded to the recent Norway shootings with claims of media persecution against Christians. Stewart pointed out that Fox News is quick to distinguish violence in the name of a religion from those who practice that religion--as long as that religion is not Islam:
From the May 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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In the wake of Jon Stewart's debate on Monday with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly about rapper Common's recent appearance at the White House, Fox & Friends this morning aired a portion of the interview that had been selectively edited to omit all of Stewart's criticism of Fox for its selective outrage over the contrived controversy.
The co-hosts reverted back to the network's general consensus about the Common controversy -- that the rapper's supposed record as someone who "has openly sympathized with convicted cop killers" should have kept him from accepting Michelle Obama's invitation to participate in a White House poetry event. Co-host Steve Doocy then asked viewers "who won" the debate without having accurately represented the interview.