Irony: Multi-Millionaire Jon Stewart Mocks Wealthy Businessmen Discussing Income Inequality

On Thursday's Daily Show, comedian Jon Stewart – who is worth an estimated $80 million – mocked the irony of wealthy business leaders discussing income inequality at the recent World Economic Forum.

"Alright so a group of world's wealthiest people get together in a secluded mountain enclave to discuss concerns over income inequality. Hmm," Stewart remarked. Perhaps Stewart missed the irony that he is TV's highest-paid host, according to Variety magazine, who is lecturing others about income inequality. Two weeks ago, he spent 9 minutes lampooning conservatives and Republicans on the issue.

Back on January 9, Stewart quipped, "there's a bit of divide in this country. Income inequality. The left thinks it's unfair because of systemic disadvantages built in for the less affluent. The right thinks it's unfair because apparently those disadvantages aren't systemic enough."  

Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee mock-reported with video from The Great Gatsby in the background: "And I can assure you, there's nothing frivolous going on here. The leaders at the World Economic Forum are laser-focused on making this a fairer and more equal planet."

On Thursday, Stewart also gasped at the report that 85 of the world's wealthiest make as much as 3.5 billion of the world's poorest. "Jesus Christ! Would not be very happy about that statistic," he exclaimed. "85 people have the same amount of wealth as the population of China, India and all of Africa and Australia. 85 people. There's more people in Arcade Fire than that."

Stewart also turned his fire on the financial reporters covering the World Economic Forum. "Are you financial journalists or just excited to be invited to the money oscars? Hey, hey! I loved you in the real life events they later based the Wolf of Wall Street on! Keep up the good work!" he mocked the reporting.

Perhaps Stewart's routine would look more genuine if he didn't make $25-30 million a year, which would put him around the top hundredth of the top one percent of annual income earners in the U.S., according to estimates.

Below is a partial transcript of the segment:

[11:00 p.m. EST]

JON STEWART: But let's begin tonight overseas in a land so central to world function that the most major economic and geopolitical decisions must be made there. I am talking, of course, about Switzerland.

[Laughter]

STEWART: Yes.

[Laughter]

STEWART: Yes those chocolate-making clock-suckers have made themselves the destination for the world's most powerful individuals. Impressing with their resourcefulness and let's call their amoral – let's call their amoral attitude towards Nazi gold neutrality. So who's in Switzerland?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN anchor: The rich and powerful, well they're at the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland now.

STEWART: Rich and powerful. I wonder where the rich and powerless gather?

(...)

MALVEAUX: Our Richard Quest, he is in Davos to break down all of this. What are people saying about this?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN international business correspondent: Here at Davos, the view is that they need to deal with inequality. It's the number one issue that people are talking about the salons, in the bars in the restaurants –

[Laughter]

STEWART: Yes! Inequality. They are talking about it in the cigar lounges, in the champagne pavilions, in the cocaine-atoriums inside – they are talking about it inside the same shared escorts. The priority is helping the less fortunate. Alright so a group of world's wealthiest people get together in a secluded mountain enclave to discuss concerns over income inequality. Hmm.

QUEST: My colleague Nina dos Santos and I have been having an argument. She believes that to some extent it's hypocrisy here at Davos. They come here, they talk about the have-nots, but it's the haves that have their noses in the trough. I don't agree with that.

[Laughter]

STEWART: I don't agree with it. I believe the real hypocrisy are the poor people who say they care so much about income inequality but couldn't be bothered to come to Davos.

[Laughter]

STEWART: Shows lack of commitment. But at least they are talking about the issue. How bad is the income inequality issue now anyway?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The poorer half of the world's people have about the same amount of money as the richest 85 people on Earth.

STEWART: Jesus Christ! Would not be very happy about that statistic. 85 people have the same amount of wealth as the population of China, India and all of Africa and Australia. 85 people. There's more people in Arcade Fire than that.

[Laughter]

STEWART: I'll tell you what, here is the good news. This thing, this little enclave, this meeting, it's not happening in secret. These people are being watched. I bet there are financial journalists all over this conference to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable through, I'm assuming hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners investigative journalism.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, co-host, Bloomberg News's Market Makers: We're going to be talking about billionaires. This place here, the World Economic Forum is a magnet for them.

LIZ CLAMAN, Fox Business anchor: I've been eating the cheesy Swiss fondue.

RUHLE: Last night, the proprieter of Eric and my hotel gave us a private ride in his car because we couldn't get a taxi. And I think that is VIP treatment.  

CLAMAN: There's a hierarchy here, okay? So when you have an all-access badge – yes, we were able to get this. Fox Business rocks.

[Laughter]

STEWART: What's with the giddiness? Are you financial journalists or just excited to be invited to the money oscars? Hey, hey! I loved you in the real life events they later based the Wolf of Wall Street on! Keep up the good work!

(...)

SAMANTHA BEE, Daily Show correspondent: Yes, Jon. I'm here in Davos, okay.

[Cheers and applause]

BEE: And I can assure you, there's nothing frivolous going on here. The leaders at the World Economic Forum are laser-focused on making this a fairer and more equal planet.

STEWART: I'm sorry, really? Because it looks like you're at a party. It looks like you're at a party at Gatsby's house, quite frankly.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014