Jon Stewart Tells Chris Wallace Fox News Is Biased -- But Rest of Media Aren't
After months of being asked, Jon Stewart finally appeared on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend.
The primary discussion point was bias in the media which the "Daily Show" host continually told Chris Wallace is far more prevalent on FNC than at all the other news organizations (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: You love to take shots at FOX News.
JON STEWART, HOST: Yes, I do.
WALLACE: Over the years, you have called us -- and we're going to put this on the screen because this is heavy stuff.
WALLACE: "A biased organization, relentlessly promoting an ideological agenda under the rubric of being a news organization."
WALLACE: And -- I actually think that's slightly the wrong use for the word rubric.
"A relentless agenda-driven, 24-hour news opinion propaganda delivery system."
WALLACE: Where do you come up with this stuff?
STEWART: It's actually quite easy when you feel it. You got to feel it in your soul, you know?
WALLACE: Well, here's the deal. Are you willing to say the same thing about the mainstream media, about ABC, CBS, NBC, "Washington Post," "New York Times"?
WALLACE: Would you say the same thing about them that they are -- in your words -- a propaganda delivery system relentlessly pushing a liberal agenda?
STEWART: No, I wouldn't say that.
Yes, he really said "No." Not surprisingly, Wallace pressed the point:
WALLACE: Why not?
STEWART: MSNBC is attempting that. I think they're attempting. They've looked at your business model and they have seen the success of it. And I think they're attempting to be a more activist organization.
WALLACE: You don't think "The New York Times" is a liberal organization?
WALLACE: Pushing a liberal agenda?
STEWART: "The New York Times," no. I think they are to a certain extent. Do I think they're relentlessly activist? No. In a purely liberal partisan way? No, I don't.
Only a liberal New Yorker would say on national television the New York Times isn't biased. Makes you wonder if he's ever read any of their editorials, doesn't it?
STEWART: I think is this -- FOX is a very special --
WALLACE: I want the shutters to go from your eyes because I'm going to prove it to you in the next few minutes.
STEWART: Oh, OK. I don't -- I'm excited about that.
WALLACE: Here we go.
STEWART: Can I tell you this? I love to learn!
WALLACE: Even you make fun of the fact that "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post" when this document dump of 24,000 e-mails of Sarah Palin was released, and they got so excited about it, they asked their readers, help us. Go through these 24,000 documents.
WALLACE: How do you explain the fact that they would do that? They would ask the readers to help them go through the Palin e-mails -- inconsequential as they turned out to be --
WALLACE: -- but they never said help us go through the 2,000 pages of the Obama health care bill?
Great question, right? Here was Stewart's absurd answer.
STEWART: Because I think their bias is towards sensationalism and laziness. I wouldn't say it's towards a liberal agenda. It's light fluff. So, it's absolutely within the wheelhouse. I mean, if your suggestion is that they are relentlessly partisan and why haven't they gone and backed away from Weiner? Now, they jumped into the Weiner pool -- so, with such delight and such relish, because the bias --
WALLACE: Some things are indefensible.
STEWART: -- the bias of the mainstream media -- oh, I'm not saying it's defensible, but the bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict and laziness.
Got that? So the Post and the Times weren't exhibiting bias when they asked their readers to assist them in going through Palin's email. They were just sensationalistic and lazy.
As I've said for many years, it takes a staggering amount of rationalizations to be a liberal these days.
A bit later, Stewart elaborated:
STEWART: Here is the difference between you and I -- I'm a comedian first. My comedy is informed by an ideological background. There's no question about that.
But the thing that you will never understand and the thing that in some respect conservative activists will never understand is that Hollywood, yes, they're liberal. But that's not their primary motivating force. I'm not an activist. I'm a comedian.
WALLACE: All right. I want to thank you for saying that because --
WALLACE: Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik -- put it up on the screen -- says that is your dodge. "Stewart has never held accountable in his media criticism, is he? When he is wrong, he goes in a tap dance of saying he's only a comedian and shouldn't be taken seriously."
Another great question. Here was Stewart's absurd answer:
STEWART: OK. Let's talk about that -- when did I say to you I'm only a comedian? I said I'm a comedian first. That's not only. Being a comedian is harder than what you do. What I do is much harder. I put material through a process, a comedic process.
That's preposterous and largely made Zurawik's point.
Whenever Stewart is accused of partisanship, he brings up the fact that he's a comedian and that's supposed to make it okay. It doesn't matter that he said "comedian first" versus "only a comedian." It's still a veil that he hides behind to shield himself from criticism of being biased:
WALLACE: But you are a political commentator. The comedy has a political --
STEWART: Some of it.
Some of it? Actually, most of Stewart's commentary is political and largely filtered through a liberal prism.
When he asked Wallace moments later if the host felt that way, the answer was affirmative:
STEWART: Am I an activist in your mind, an ideological partisan activist?
STEWART: OK. Then I disagree with you.
You can't understand because of the world you live in that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change because that's the soup you swim in. And I appreciate that. And I understand that. It reminds me of, you know -- you know, ideological regimes. They can't understand that there is free media other places because they receive marching orders.
So, in Stewart's view, what he does on Comedy Central is "free media" that's not receiving marching orders. Yet how often do his segments largely reflect Democrat talking points echoing what comes from the shills at the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, and MoveOn.org?
Despite this, like so many of his liberal counterparts, Stewart's finger is always pointing at Fox for its conservative leaning encouraging Wallace to press the point:
WALLACE: How do you explain me? Do you think I get my marching orders?
STEWART: I think that you are here in some respects to bring a credibility and an integrity to an organization that might not otherwise have it, without your presence. So, you are here as a counterweight to Hannity, let's say, or you are here as a counterweight to Glenn Beck, because otherwise, it's just pure talk radio and it doesn't establish the type of political player it wants to be.
Wallace is a counterweight to Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck? How do Greta Van Susteren, Shepard Smith, and all the liberal contributors to Fox fit into that mix?
If you add up all the conservative contributors to ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and PBS they don't total the number of liberal contributors to Fox.
Also, couldn't one make the case that conservative contributors to the New York Times and the Washington Post are there as a counterweight to both paper's distinct leftward leaning?
I wish Wallace had mentioned that.
Yet moments later, Stewart did say something rather telling:
STEWART: The embarrassment is that I'm given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does.
Well, that is indeed embarrassing, but not for the reason Stewart ascribed:
WALLACE: I don't think --
STEWART: -- not because I have an ideological agenda.
WALLACE: I don't think our viewers are the least bit disappointed with us. I think our viewers think, finally, they're getting somebody who tells the other side of the story.
The only credibility Stewart has comes from folks on the left that are disappointed in the news media. Dissatisfied people on the right - given Fox's ratings this is a huge figure - are finding real alternative news sources to receive information without the biases prevalent elsewhere.
These sources don't include comedians. It's only the left that hold up comics as reputable disseminators of information.
Wallace demonstrated why this is such a bad thing a few moments later:
WALLACE: I'm suggesting that there is bias, and that you only tell part of the story.
STEWART: Oh, there's no question that I don't tell the full story. I mean, I don't disagree with that. But I don't not tell the full story based on a purely ideological partisan agenda. That's my point. My point isn't --
WALLACE: I think your agenda is more out there, and you're pushing more of an agenda than you pretend to.
Without question, which makes you wonder if Stewart was being completely honest Sunday or spinning a yarn to preserve whatever appearance of impartiality he miraculously retains with his fans. But as the segment drew to a close, the "Daily Show" host seemed to lift his veil a bit:
STEWART: I've existed in this country forever. There have been people like me who satirize the political process and who have satirized -- what was it that Will Rogers said? You know, how crazy is it when politicians are a joke and comedians are taken seriously?
WALLACE: That assumes a kind of -- and this is where I think you're wrong and you don't get it --
STEWART: That may be right.
WALLACE: -- is that there is not a single marching order. There is not some kind of command. There is not a talking point memo. I'm saying --
STEWART: Well, that I disagree with.
WALLACE: I am sitting here talking to Jon Stewart and I'm trying to get it, trying to understand you, and trying to see whether or not you recognize that what I believe is true, that there is as much bias on the other side as you subscribe to Fox, and why you seem to go easy on that.
STEWART: I think that there is a -- probably a liberal bias that exists within the media that is because of the medium in which it exists. I think that the majority of people working in it probably hold liberal viewpoints, but I don't think that they are as relentlessly activist as the conservative movement that has risen up over the last 40 years.
And that movement has decided that they have been victims of a witch hunt. And to some extent they're right.
People on the right are called racists and they're called things with an ease that I am uncomfortable with -- and homophobic and all those other things. And I think that that is absolutely something that they have a real right to be angry about and to feel that they have been vilified for those things. And I've been guilty of doing some of those things myself.
WALLACE: I accept your apology.
WALLACE: I want to thank you for coming on.
Interesting way to conclude, wouldn't you agree?
In the end, you have to appreciate Stewart being willing to do such a lengthy interview with Wallace, and allowing his hair to come down a bit.
Say what you will about the "Daily Show" host, unlike so many of the cowards on the left, he'll go on Fox and face the music.
It will be interesting to see how he reports this on his own show next week.