NPR Host Coos Over 'So Funny' Jon Stewart, As He Says 'Tough [Bleep]' to Liberals And Denounces Media as Timid, Corrupt

Nationally distributed NPR talk show host Terry Gross was putting her feelings on her sleeve and on the air Monday in an interview with liberal comedian Jon Stewart. The episode was taped at an event at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan with a live audience. Gross began by proclaiming "I just want to say thank you before I ask you the first question.....Thank you for the last thing I see every night, in addition to my husband and my cat, is your show. And I'm able to go to bed with a sense that there is sanity someplace in the world."

Stewart joked constantly through the hour, but it was also clear he had serious anger with how the Democrats haven't been leftist enough, and about a media that hasn't been biased enough. He expressed frustration near the show's end when he asserted that the media's too timid because of the talk of a "liberal media conspiracy." When asked about liberals being concerned that his October 30 "million moderates" march will hurt Democrats, he actually said "Tough [expletive]."

GROSS: Now, some people are worried. There's a big AFL-CIO liberal march, there's the FFL, the NAACP, a whole bunch of groups. Some people worry that your march is going to take away from their, like, serious political march.

STEWART: Right, yeah, tough (bleep). (Laughter, applause.)

GROSS: Why do you say that?

STEWART: I have a job. I don't have to do yours. I don't have to do their job. Let them do their job. If their job is to motivate the voters and to rally people to their cause, God bless. Do whatever you've got to do. But that's not my job. My job is to, again, express our point of view comedically about what we view as the political process.

You know, I don't I have no obligation to the Democrats or progressives or liberals or unions. Our feeling is, corruption is corruption. If a union is corrupt, you can't leave it alone because it's a union, and they help so that 8-year-olds don't work in factories anymore. You know, you have to go where you feel like the absurdity is. So we're not anybody's we're not warriors in their cause. And if they're upset, they should have thought of that, you know, the past couple of years, before they lost, you know, the momentum that they had gained in 2008.

Stewart would tell his fans that he's all about taking down the pomposity of politicians, but there is a great deal of pomposity about how it's somehow his sacred duty to "express his point of view comedically." When asked if he's become more political since his start at The Daily Show (replacing Craig Kilborn as host in year), he said he's more concerned about corruption -- not from the politicians, but from the media, who aren't aggressive (leftist) enough for him:

GROSS: So he [Stephen Colbert] feels that he became more political because you pushed him to make passionate political choices in humor. Did doing the show make you more political than you ever expected to be - more politically aware, more politically engaged?

STEWART: I think it made me less political and more emotional. The closer you spend time with the political and the media process, the less political you become, and the more viscerally upset you become at corruption. So its - I dont consider it political because political - I always sort of denote as a partisan endeavor.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. STEWART: But we have - I have become increasingly unnerved by just the depth of corruption that exists at many different levels. I'm less upset about politicians than the media. I feel like politicians, there is a certain, inherent - you know, the way I always explain it is, when you go to the zoo and a monkey throws its feces, its a monkey. (Laughter)  But, when the zookeeper is standing right there, and he doesnt say bad monkey... (Laughter)

Somebody's got to be the zookeeper. And that's - so I tend to feel much more strongly about the abdication of responsibility by the media than by political advocates. (Applause) They're representing a constituency. And the media, you know, our culture is just a series of checks and balances. That's why I'm never - you know, the whole idea that we're in a - suddenly a battle for, between tyranny and freedom; its a series of pendulum swings. And the swings have become less drastic over time.

That's why I feel sort of - not sanguine, but at least a little bit less frightful in that our pendulum swings have become less and less. But what has changed is, I think, the media's sense of their ability to be responsible arbiters or - I think they feel fearful. I think there is this whole idea now that there's a liberal media conspiracy. And so if they feel like they express any moral authority or judgment, which is what you would imagine is editorial control, that they will be vilified. Or there's, you know, I honestly don't know what it is.

Gross also loved Stewart's Beck-bashing:

GROSS: So although the rally isn't directly inspired by Glenn Beck, I think there is a bit of an echo there. So I thought we'd play the Glenn Beck clip first because you are so funny. You recently devoted a show, the better part of a show, to your impression of Glenn Beck.

STEWART: Yes.

GROSS: And it was so funny and so good, and so right on the money.

STEWART: Thank you.

GROSS: So I want to play a clip. I don't know if you saw it. I don't know if you saw it or not when it was on, but you'll get to see it now, and this clip actually starts with Glenn Beck himself, with a clip from his show that you will then comment on. Here we go. [Clip from Daily Show begins] 

STEWART: You just blew my mind.

 

GLENN BECK ("The Glenn Beck Show"): Progressives think they know better than you do. They want to control every aspect of your life.

STEWART: I didn't know that that's what I wanted, but I guess I want to control every aspect of your life. As a progressive, I might say: I think it's a good idea for an agency to monitor pollution. (Laughter)

But I guess what I really mean is, it's in the state's interest that we be allowed to put a chip in your head that tells you when you can masturbate. (Laughter) Total control. And in my America, nobody tells people when they can masturbate. (Applause) That is a decision that should only be made between myself, my doctor, and that new Calvin Klein billboard outside my window's that's lit 24 hours a day - no not that one, the new one. The new one. Ew, no, the new one that's got the yeah. (Laughter, applause, end of clip).

 

GROSS: So I'd love it if you could kind of take us behind the scenes a little bit and tell us, like, what goes on - like, how did you try to deconstruct Glenn Beck and figure out what is his logic that you're going to apply in your version?

Mr. STEWART: The beautiful thing about what he does is, it's very difficult to argue with his facts. It's the conclusions. You know, you can string together all type of fact. It's sort of like, you know, the old thing where, like, he's got a thing about progressives. If you somehow believe that the country should have some type of social safety net for, you know, our least-fortunate people, then you believe that the government should control the banks and also, all of our institutions. And you know, it's that slippery slope. And he'll come up with, you know, these little arguments that go along and - but the conclusions he draws. So what you do is, you just grab together facts, and then you take them and you put them together and do a grab bag of conclusions.

You know, it's - everything is discovered as evidence of secret plots, you know, secret things that could be occurring. You know, you take the word conservative or libertarian, you know, and you break it apart. You know, libertarian - L-I, lie, lie. Why would the word lie be in there? And then bert. Bert was the gay communist half of Ernie and Bert. Why would that be in there? (Laughter) And if you arian, Aryan. Do you see? Aryan is the last they are Nazis. You know, and you blow it all out as though it's a conspiracy, and it's easy to perform because it's comedy.

When the time was up, Gross proclaimed, "I would love to talk to you for hours, and I have a feeling our audience would love to listen to you for hours, but I am (applause) I am, sadly, required to end it about now."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis