New York Magazine Columnist: Jon Stewart 'Invaluable' as Media Critic; 'Most Trusted Man in America'

Lauding Jon Stewart's biting humor and criticism of today's politicized media, NY Magazine columnist Chris Smith called him "Cronkite, the most trusted man in America" in his piece featured on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday. The show's panel largely agreed with him and emphasized that Stewart is bi-partisan in his comedy.

"The right provides better raw material, but Stewart's complaints are bi-partisan," Smith writes in his column "America is a Joke." On MSNBC, Smith described Stewart as a "comedy opportunist, you know, where people do mockable things – left, right, in-between."

The show's co-host Joe Scarborough joined Smith in diffusing the myth that Stewart is a raging liberal. "Over the past year, he's been every bit as tough on the Obama administration as Republicans on Capitol Hill," he asserted.  

The panel seemed to agree that Stewart is hilarious, but pressed about the anger that lies underneath his cynicism. Smith affirmed this. "Oh, no question, that's what gives [his humor] weight and bite, and you know, he admits to being angry every day, and the show gives him the catharsis, you know, it gives him the chance to point things out. And it's not just anger for the sake of anger."

Smith added that Stewart's angry criticisms sometimes pass for reporting as well. "You know, he did something three, four weeks ago that maybe you guys covered – I certainly didn't....But pointing out that Fox has been taking all these shots at the mosque, and who's funding it – and then they go and do their homework to say well, NewsCorp's second-largest investor is a Saudi prince. You know, that's reporting as much as it is anger or humor."

A transcript of highlights from the segment, which aired on September 17, at 7:42 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CHRIS SMITH, columnist, New York magazine: Some things that have happened in the real world, many of them not funny, have given him openings. And the polarization of media – you know, cable channels, Fox obviously the biggest culprit, has given Stewart a middle to both poke fun at and sort of represent in some ways.

(...)

WILLIE GEIST: Is he driven by anger? Because when you read the things he says about the media, he holds the media in utter contempt, almost across the board. That includes the right and the left.

SMITH: Yeah, uh, anger and a faint, naive hope for intelligence to rule the day – you know, he still thinks there's some dream state, you know, of American political discourse where we can be nicer to each other and have genuine arguments, but have them be based on fact and not emotion.

(...)

JOE SCARBOROUGH: ...over the past year, he's been every bit as tough on the Obama administration as Republicans on Capitol Hill, and he also has been tough on extremists on the left as well as extremists on the right. Um, Have you – have you noted that in your piece? Have you talked about the fact that he goes after the left now as aggressively as the right in many cases?

SMITH: Certainly, and it's not out of any agenda, you know, big picture-attempt to be "fair and balanced," to coin a phrase. But he is a comedy opportunist, you know, where people do mockable things, left, right, in-between. He's going to go for the punchline.

(...)

SCARBOROUGH: And Mika, you've always talked about his brilliance....But John Stewart works hard, but the guy, as you always say, is brilliant. He's one of the smartest guys on TV.

(...)

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: ...I do think that there's a tinge of anger in a lot of his humor.

SMITH: Oh, no question, that's what gives it weight and bite, and you know, he admits to being angry every day, and the show gives him the catharsis, you know, it gives him the chance to point things out. And it's not just anger for the sake of anger. You know, he did something three, four weeks ago that maybe you guys covered – I certainly didn't....But pointing out that Fox has been taking all these shots at the mosque, and who's funding it. And then they go and do their homework to say well, NewsCorp's second-largest investor is a Saudi prince, you know, that's reporting as much as it is anger or humor.
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014