Brian Williams Worries Jon Stewart Has Been Too Tough on Occupy Wall Street

In an interview with Daily Show host Jon Stewart on the premiere of NBC's latest news magazine Rock Center on Monday, host Brian Williams fretted over Stewart's mocking of the Occupy Wall Street protests: "A lot of people were surprised....You were tough on them. You've been tough on them. You've been exacting and taking them to task for all the mayhem, for the drum circles."

Stewart joked: "We poke gentle fun at the rhythm percussion. That's all we do." Williams countered: "You don't think your stance on them has been tougher than most people would expect?" Stewart reassured him: "No. I don't think it's been – it's been tougher. How can it be? I have – I have great empathy....They want jobs. They want dignity."

Stewart referenced a story from the broadcast on government opposition forces in Syria and proclaimed: "...the people of Occupy Wall Street, the people of Syria. Their concerns, their hearts are all aligned very similarly. How can you not be moved by that?...I have great respect for what they're trying to accomplish, or at least the frustration they are expressing."

Williams then wondered: "Are we entering kind of a permanent era of protest here, semi-permanent for the next couple of months, years?... Do you think this kind of movement, 99 versus 1, this specific economic movement is here for a good long while?"

Stewart argued: "I think as long as people feel as though there has been no remedy or no action that gives them confidence, that gives them the ability....until people have hope that there is some sense that their grievances are being addressed and addressed seriously and that the government is becoming more agile to deal with it."


Here is a transcript of the October 31 exchange:

10:56PM ET

BRIAN WILLIAMS: I want to talk about Occupy Wall Street.

JON STEWART: Let's do that.

WILLIAMS: A lot of people were-

STEWART: They're coming for you.

WILLIAMS: Surprised.
    
STEWART: One percenter.

WILLIAMS: You were tough on them. You've been tough on them. You've been exacting and taking them to task for all the mayhem, for the drum circles.

STEWART: No.

WILLIAMS: All of that. No, I think – I think-

STEWART: We poke gentle fun at the rhythm percussion. That's all we do.

WILLIAMS: You don't think your stance on them has been tougher than most people would expect?

STEWART: No. I don't think it's been – it's been tougher. How can it be? I have – I have great empathy for – you know, it's interesting. The piece you did in North Dakota is the perfect complement...

WILLIAMS: How about-

STEWART: ...to Occupy Wall Street.

WILLIAMS: How about that?

STEWART: This is – that is what the movement is. They want jobs. They want dignity. And you see it coupled with Syria. There's a gestalt happening with your program tonight. There's a circle that's coming together, the people of North Dakota, the people of Occupy Wall Street, the people of Syria. Their concerns, their hearts are all aligned very similarly. How can you not be moved by that? And while the percussion circle makes good fodder for fun, I have great respect for what they're trying to accomplish, or at least the frustration they are expressing.

WILLIAMS: Here's the other question. Are we entering kind of a permanent era of protest here, semi-permanent for the next couple of months, years? Where does this end?

STEWART: When did we stop?

WILLIAMS: Where does it end? Oh, this wasn't our society.

STEWART: No, no, no, no.

WILLIAMS: We were kind of cruising along at 50,000 feet.

STEWART: The Tea Party-

WILLIAMS: You didn't see public demonstrations like this.

STEWART: You're a news man. Go back to the Iraq war, there were a million people in the street trying to do the – do you have tape here, do you have TiVO?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'm talking about the economy. The Tea Party started disrupting town hall meetings on the subject of health care.

STEWART [POINTING TO WILLIAMS' SOCKS]: Loosen these, because they're cutting off your circulation. Do you recall the Iraq war had protests?

WILLIAMS: I was there for all of it, I was there for all of it.

STEWART: The Tea Party was a protest movement.

WILLIAMS: This is a new movement is all I'm saying. Do you think this kind of movement, 99 versus 1, this specific economic movement is here for a good long while?

STEWART: I think as long as people feel as though there has been no remedy or no action that gives them confidence, that gives them the ability. And look, it's all perspective. You know, you've got guys down in Zuccotti Park with a tent, you know, roughing it with brown rice in a tent. I'm sure there's people, you know, maybe in sub-Saharan Africa who are like 'Ooh, tents. Look at you, mister.' You know? So it's all perspective. The guys in Syria have a very different issue that they're dealing with, but given that, until people have hope that there is some sense that their grievances are being addressed and addressed seriously and that the government is becoming more agile to deal with it.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC