Matt Lauer Lauds Liberal Jon Stewart: 'Respected and Listened to'

Jon Stewart, Comedy Central "Today" host Matt Lauer scored an interview with "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart for Thursday's show and praised the liberal comic as "one of the most respected and listened to political voices in this country." Continuing his fawning profile, he attributed a rise in the number of young people voting, in part, to the work of Stewart. It was just after that exchange that the comedian jabbed at Republican John McCain.

He asserted the increase in young voters was due to the fact that in this election, "...It helps to have some candidates, you know, who are not necessarily Matlockian," referring to TV character Ben Matlock, played by Andy Griffith and popular with older Americans. Now, it's one thing to say that Stewart's funny, but respected? By liberals, perhaps, but it's obvious that much of his appeal to members of the media derives from his partisan, relentless bashing of conservatives and Republicans. Tom Brokaw, another NBC luminary, wrote a profile on the comic for the April 18, 2005 issue of Time in which he rather ridiculously referred to the Comedy Central host as "our Athenian, a voice for democratic ideals and the noble place of citizenship, helped along by the sound of laughter." [Emphasis added]

This is the same Stewart who, on September 18, 2006, trashed conservative commentator Robert Novak as a "115-year-old vampire demon." In fact, on Thursday's program, Lauer highlighted a "Daily Show" clip in which Stewart played footage of media talking heads exhorting Michelle Obama to tout her patriotism for her speech to the Democratic convention on Monday. Lauer then played a bite of Stewart bitterly replying, "She's a Democrat! She must prove she loves America, as opposed to Republicans who everyone knows love America, they just hate half the people living in it!"

In between all the gushing, Lauer did not find time to ask about a "Daily Show" billboard that has been placed near the site of next week's Republican convention in Minneapolis. The sign featured the smug image of Stewart next to the words: "Welcome, Rich White Oligarchs!" So far, it appears that there has been no similar billboard at the Democratic convention.

A transcript of the August 28 segment, which aired at 8:46am, follows:

MATT LAUER: And welcome back to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. You know, when they're not logging in on the internet, recent studies show 18 to 29-year-olds get most of their political news from the "Daily Show" on Comedy Central. So, I sat down with the show's host to talk about his program's growing influence.

JON STEWART:[Montage of "Daily Show" announcer introducing convention coverage.]: We've made it. Denver, Colorado, ladies and gentlemen. The Democratic National Convention.

LAUER: Third campaign you're covering, right, as host of the "Daily Show?"


LAUER: Third. How would you say your approach to the campaign has changed?

STEWART: I don't think our approach has changed much except now we have floor passes. So, now, we're allowed a certain amount of access.

LAUER: It's funny you say that, because looking back to 2000 when you guys first dove into this, it was like you were the kid in the class with the spit balls.

STEWART: That's correct.

LAUER: Spitting at the powers that be. How would you describe your place in the class now?

STEWART: We have one of those automatic spitball fires, you know, that Nerf makes?

LAUER: It's Uzi?

STEWART: It fires, like, eight of 'em at a time.

[Brief clips of various anchors saying, "Is she patriotic" in relation to Michelle Obama.]

STEWART: She's got to! She's a Democrat! She must prove she loves America as opposed to Republicans who everyone knows love America, they just hate half the people living in it!

[End of "Daily Show" clip]

LAUER: You've been watching closely what's been happening in this convention and so far, we heard from the two most important women in Barack Obama's life, his wife Michelle and Hillary Clinton. For a second, can't you even admit to me that you wanted her in the middle of that speech to change her mind and say, "I'm not going anywhere. I'm throwing my hat back in the ring?

STEWART: No, I don't think I --

LAUER: Come on.

STEWART: Well, no. I think you always want something crazy to happen. I mean, I think it would have been great if she's come up and literally unleashed a set of profanity. To me, it doesn't matter-

LAUER: Like you do on your show.

STEWART: Exactly.

["Daily Show" clip]

STEWART: Senator Clinton's introduction lasted five hours and included 48 speakers. Leaving one observer slack jawed and on camera for an uncomfortable amount of mouth breathing time.

LAUER: You have become one of the most respected and listened to political voices in this country. I'm curious. Is it what you set out to have happen, or did it happen by accident?

STEWART: Yes. Yes. Yes. No. I remember the meeting. You sat there. I believe we were watching -- it might have been David Frost. And I remember saying to myself, if we screw around enough, I think I could be that guy. And we all nodded and went, "Let's do it."

LAUER: If you look at the numbers of young people turning out during the primary season, nearly double what turned out in 2000, you have to think that some of those people are being turned on to politics by people like you. So, that's an important role.

STEWART: I don't doubt that humor can bring people into a system. I also think it helps to have some candidates, you know, who are not necessarily Matlockian. I also think events in the world have a tendency to bring in young people, because they feel now more of a responsibility. The '80s, there wasn't that sense of foreboding. There was more a sense of, "This Wall Street thing looks pretty hot." You know, now there's more a sense of, like, "Wait, Greenland just sunk?" You know, so I think that brings people in.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for