Jon Stewart enlivened another Fox News Channel show when he argued with Chris Wallace on Sunday about media bias on Wallace’s show, “Fox News Sunday.”
Most of the interview was civil and well-mannered, as the two men squared off over their respective roles in the world of political commentary. In many ways, the whole discussion came down to one subject: The definition of what it means to describe someone – whether a comedian/commentator such as Stewart, or a newsman such as Wallace – as a “partisan activist.”
Basically, Wallace tried to get Stewart to own up to the fact (at least as perceived by Wallace and his colleagues at right-leaning FNC) that he is as much as “partisan activist” as he is a comedian. And basically, Stewart denied it, saying that his primary “agenda” has to do with making people laugh. He insisted that he and his Comedy Central “Daily Show” have no goal or “ambition” to exert their influence on politicians and lawmakers.
At an early point in the interview, Wallace showed an example of a bit seen recently on “The Daily Show” that he felt proved Stewart’s bias. It was a bit that juxtaposed a commercial that publicized Sarah Palin’s recent bus tour of historic sites in the eastern U.S. with a commercial for a genital-herpes spot because the two spots seemed to use the same format. Stewart and his “Daily Show” writers seemed to think it was funny that the Palin people drew inspiration for their commercial from this herpes ad. And it was funny.
This was the point where Stewart told Wallace, “You’re insane,” but it wasn’t said in anger. The anger came a little later in the interview when Wallace raised the subject of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” after he played a clip of Stewart impersonating Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who is African-American. “You planning a remake of ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy’?” Wallace asked him.
That’s when Stewart seemed to become less fun-loving and more serious since Wallace’s question was racially tinged. And he gave as good as he got, accusing Wallace and FNC of acting not unlike members of a dictatorship.
“You can’t understand, because of the world that you live in, that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change because that’s the soup you swim in,” Stewart said. “And I appreciate that, I understand it. It reminds me of in ideological regimes, they can’t understand that there is free media other places because they receive marching orders.”
For a network that seems to not like Jon Stewart, FNC sure doesn’t mind having him on for obvious reasons: He’s a great, provocative guest, and he boosts ratings.