Novak Blasts 'Self-Righteous' Jon Stewart, Unwatchable Chris Matthews

On Friday's C-SPAN morning show "Washington Journal," host Brian Lamb interviewed columnist Robert Novak in the hour of 9 to 10 AM Eastern time on his column on the unraveling of the Plamegate scandal. (Novak was in Urbana, Illinois, at his alma mater, the University of Illinois.) Perhaps the most entertaining parts were his harsh takes on Chris Matthews and Jon Stewart, whom he called "a self-righteous comedian taking on airs of grandeur."

After a supportive call mentioning Matthews, Novak said "Hardball" was unwatchable:

"Well, thank you. My problem here, sir, is that I never watch Chris Matthews' program because I don't feel that I can possibly learn anything from all that shouting and blathering and interrupting people. So I haven't watched his program in years. I don’t know if he said much about this and I don’t care. I can imagine that Mr. Matthews believes that being mistaken in journalism means never having to say you’re sorry. So I don’t think he’ll say much of anything."

Later, Brian Lamb revisited the point, which spurred Novak to praise C-SPAN:

Lamb: "That brings up the question how much television do you watch, what other shows do you watch and do you spend much time in front of that tube?"

Novak: "Well, I have a -- yeah, I do spend a lot of time. I'm able to do, what's the fancy term now, multi-task. I am able to write and talk on the telephone and watch television at the same time. Pretty good for an old man, isn't it, Brian? I have a television set right next to my terminal at work and I have one next to my terminal at home. And, I do a lot of C-SPAN watching, which I really enjoy. I watch the Senate and House, particularly the Senate. I get a lot of story ideas from that and watch of C-SPAN and watch the cable networks considerably. But, I don't -- don't watch -- I have a lot of problems with Chris Matthews, which I won’t go into. This is not the Chris Matthews show, but I just don't watch that program. And I certainly, if somebody mentioned the Jon Stewart program, I've never seen that in my life and I will go to my grave not having seen it."

Lamb: "Why?"

Novak: "I don’t see a reason for it, it’s a comedian, a self-righteous comedian taking on airs of grandeur, I don’t really need that."

I'm sure Novak was smarting from a caller who had mentioned Stewart's "stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America" outburst on CNN's "Crossfire" about how that show was a civic menace (October 15, 2004). The best part was Stewart saying that "Crossfire" was for partisan hacks, even as co-host Tucker Carlson was pressing him about how he asked partisan-hack-softball questions to John Kerry on "The Daily Show."

Novak told Lamb that for most of its history, "Crossfire" was actually a fairly civil show, but that it grew more heated when it started being taped before a studio audience at George Washington University and added the Clinton spinners James Carville and Paul Begala to oppose Novak and Carlson from the left.

When asked if he would write a book on his Plamegate experiences, Novak replied he has a memoir coming next year on his 50 years in Washington. As he said of Matthews, he repeated that the press in general is paying too little attention to Plamegate's utter collapse:

"I would say that most of the press really ignored this story. I think they intuitively felt there was a build-up phony story. At the beginning there was a lot of attention paid to it and a lot of bad journalism on this story. You could write a book about the bad journalism involved, exaggerating it. But journalists don't say they're sorry. In fact, they never even say they were wrong. It's part of, I think, we -- we accept that as our -- as our First Amendment right, to be wrong."

Hat tip for the transcript to MRC's Michelle Humphrey.

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