Comedian Jon Stewart made two separate visits to the Obama White House—once in advance of the president’s 2012 reelection campaign, and a second time just before Obama addressed Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine on television.
Politico reported that both meetings, confirmed by former Obama aides, were listed on White House visitor logs but were previously unreported in the media.
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Stewart’s first meeting with Obama over coffee in October 2011 occurred during a major budget battle. According to former Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee, Obama desired to defend his administration’s policies and refute his critics on the left ahead of his reelection campaign.
"The White House itself was quite interested in at least explaining its side of the story to Jon Stewart," Goolsbee said, "up to and including the president."
The second quietly held meeting, occurring in February 2014, took place the morning before the president appeared on TV to warn Russia against taking further military action in Ukraine. Again, during that meeting the president took the opportunity to sell his administration’s ideas.
In an episode of The Daily Show directly following said meeting, Stewart covered Obama’s comments on Russia and Ukraine, slamming Russian President Vladimir Putin as "Heil Titler" in a segment.
Goolsbee and fellow former Obama adviser David Axelrod regularly corresponded with Stewart or staff at The Daily Show, which picks up an average of 1.3 million viewers on a given night.
Axelrod labeled the liberal comedian "a useful prod" for the Obama administration.
"I can’t say that because Jon Stewart was unhappy policy changed," Axelrod said. "But I can say that he had forceful arguments; they were arguments that we knew would be heard and deserved to be answered."
Stewart, who will leave the Comedy Central program after 17 years, hosted Obama seven times on the show.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) said that her fellow liberals are "worried" as The Daily Show host prepares for his exit.
"I’ll tell you, some Democrats are worried," alleged McCaskill. "He’s done a great thing for us reminding young people why the Republican Party is out of step."
Stewart has become infamous for his consistently negative portrayal of Republican lawmakers. He will appear in his final episode as host next Thursday.