Jon Stewart is making his first public comments about the allegations of sexual harassment against Louis C.K.
In an interview on Today, Stewart expressed shock at the New York Times report featuring five women who claim C.K. behaved inappropriately with them. The women who came forward said Louis C.K. either masturbated in front of them, asked if he could masturbate in front of them, or was heard masturbating while on the phone with them. Louis C.K. later confirmed the reporting, saying in a statement, “These stories are true…. The power I had over these women is that they admired me,” he added. “And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”
“You give your friends the benefit of the doubt: I tried to think about it in terms of, I’ve had friends who have had compulsions and have done things — gambling or drinking or drugs — and we’ve lost some of them,” Stewart said Tuesday. “Some of them have died. You always find yourself back to a moment of, ‘Did I miss something? Could I have done more?’ And in this situation, I think we all could have. So you feel anger at what you did to people.”
Stewart spoke with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie to promote his upcoming HBO special, Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites for Autism Programs. He told Lauer he was “stunned” by the reported behavior of Louis C.K., and added, “Comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women.”
The New York Times report about Louis C.K. caused a videotaped interaction between Stewart and a University of Chicago student from last year to resurface. In it, Stewart dismissed the student after being asked why he hadn’t addressed the rumors of Louis C.K.’s alleged harassment. “So the internet said Louis harassed women? You know who you’re talking to, right?” he said to him, incredulously. “I didn’t see the tweets. Honestly, I’m not that connected to that world. I don’t know what you’re talking about.… All I can tell you is I’ve worked with Louis for 30 years, he’s a wonderful person, and I’ve never heard anything about this, and we all knew Bill Cosby was a prick for a long time.”
Stewart addressed the clip in his Today interview. “My first response was, ‘What?’ And then, joke, joke, and as he kept going, I was like, ‘Look, I know this is very serious, but I know Louis, he’s always been a gentleman to me,’ which, again, it speaks to the blindness that I think a man has,” he said. “Digging around in it and finding that some people had done, it was hard, but we were all assured like, no, but we took somebody’s word for it, and maybe that’s an error on our part.”
Stewart confirmed that he has not spoken to Louis C.K. since the New York Times published its report. The comic was scheduled to appear on Night of Too Many Stars opposite Stewart, but HBO cut the comedian’s scheduled appearance on Thursday.