Before Jon Stewart bowed out as host of The Daily Show, he had one more interview with President Obama in July, in which CBS described them as “two old friends” on the verge of leaving their respective professions.
Yes, shocking though it may be, Stewart openly favored the Obama administration, as did his rather small but like-thinking audience and the network he worked for, and he did very little to hide the fact. It would not have been good for business.
That was never on display more clearly than in one of his final shows, where he aired a Fox News segment where media critics discussed the news Stewart had met privately with Obama at the White House on two occasions. The story, of course, furthered the idea that the lefty comic was more interested in helping out the administration than being fully committed to laughs, targets’ political persuasions be damned.
Stewart challenged that the Fox hosts had not produced any video evidence of such devotion and played his own montage of Fox showing “even Stewart” going after the White House for various failings over the previous six years. Boom! Got ’em!
Of course, that was precisely the point: Stewart was such a Democratic boot-licker that when even the Obama administration had messed up enough to merit his ridicule, it was newsworthy.
Stewart’s version of events wouldn’t really tell the story of the show, so I took his challenge, going back and digging out just a few clips (from the past two years! that told a much more accurate story of The Daily Show and why it merited fond farewell tweets from both the White House and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, not to mention countless left-wing journalists and politicians who loved it for shredding conservatives with a guffawing, adoring studio audience shrieking with delight at every Stewart quip and stare.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 6, 2015
— DCCC (@dccc) August 6, 2015
On Obamacare, the border crisis, Hobby Lobby, the Iran nuclear deal and so many other issues that came to light, Stewart, always looked to by the press for his reaction to the stories of the day, consistently sided with power.
A classic example: After Obama told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that “your and your TV station” promote phony scandals about his administration in February 2014, Stewart did the “sprinkler” dance move to celebrate.
“Quite an accusation!” Stewart yelled. “That Fox News unfairly promotes–and in some cases creates–scandals for the sole purpose of undermining this president, although, in Obama’s defense, it is true.”
Stewart certainly did not pretend to not be liberal. While he rose to prominence as a progressive oasis during the Bush administration (more than a few cultural writers have sworn his comedy show helped them “survive” 2001 to 2009), when Obama came to the White House, Stewart’s targets shifted from the conservatives once in power to conservatives bashing the ones in power.
His style was once described thusly by National Review‘s Kevin Williamson:
Mr. Stewart is among the lowest forms of intellectual parasite in the political universe, with no particular insights or interesting ideas of his own, reliant upon the very broadest and least clever sort of humor, using ancient editing techniques to make clumsy or silly political statements sound worse than they are and then pantomiming outrage at the results.
The media, though a frequent subject of his humorous scorn, still praised him because Stewart said and targeted the Right things. When he announced he was leaving back in February, the mourning across ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN was hilariously telling.
That Stewart occasionally offered criticism of the Obama White House was no indicator that he wanted to hold all politicians accountable. His publicized takedowns of the Obamacare website’s malfunctioning had more to do with his disappointment that a liberal program was at risk because of faulty installation. One writer noted this was right out of his playbook: “mocking liberals’ tactics and implementation but not their underlying assumptions or ideas.”
Rather, Stewart’s schtick was pretty repetitive: Cheaply edited clips of Fox News personalities or Republican politicians saying the same thing over and over to make them appear moronic, Stewart mugging for the audience or screeching some obscenity, and dutiful outlets reporting the next day that Stewart had in fact obliterated his chosen target.
In his final interview with Stewart, Obama told the audience, ”I’m issuing a new executive order: That Jon Stewart cannot leave the show.”
The crowd roared.