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Jon Stewart, making what was billed as “his first appearance ever on a Sunday talk show,” told Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, he was “insane” if Wallace thinks his comedy has “an ideological, partisan agenda.” His Daily Show satire, Stewart said, “is about absurdity and corruption.”
In one of the best interviews Stewart has given articulating his views — you can watch it in its entirety here — the comedian batted away Wallace’s accusations that The New York Times and “the mainstream media” have a liberal agenda. “Their bias is toward sensationalism and conflict and laziness,” said Stewart. (A sensationalism of which I am guilty in putting “You’re insane” in the headline of this piece, to be sure.) Stewart said that Wallace maintains this belief about liberal agendas because “that is the soup you swim in” as a Fox employee. When Wallace protested that he is not given a Fox News mandate about what beliefs to hold or positions to push, Stewart agreed with him: “You are a tough interviewer. [But] you are here as a counterweight to [Sean] Hannity… or Glenn Beck.”
The “insane” comment occurred when Wallace played the Daily Show clip that compared a Sarah Palin TV ad for her recent bus tour to the editing done in an ad for herpes medication. “You really think that’s a political comment?” Stewart said of the clip. When Wallace said he did indeed, Stewart responded, “You’re insane. Here’s the difference between you and I. I’m a comedian first.” Free tip to Fox News: Start using the Firesign Theatre’s old slogan: “Not Insane.”
Said Stewart, “The embarrassment is that I am given credibility in this world because of the disappointment the public has in what the news media does.” Wallace countered, “I think our viewers aren’t disappointed in us; I think out viewers think they’re getting someone who tells the other side of the story.”
And this was when Stewart came as close as I have seen to losing his temper. He said with great force, “And who has the most consistently misinformed media viewers? Fox. Fox viewers. Consistently. Every poll.”
Wallace declined to respond.
It was, as they say, great television.
Oh, and this: Asked who the last Republican was that he voted for for President, Stewart said quickly, “H.W.” — that is, George Bush, Sr. “I had a respect for him,” said Stewart.