Jon Stewart’s Greatest Crusades Against the Mainstream Media

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On last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart lodged a pithily accurate critique of CNN’s tactless and misinformed reporting on the dubious arrest of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Amid clips of CNN’s rambling, self-contradicting shambles of reportage, Stewart quipped, “It’s like a news story as imagined by M. Night Shyamalan,”adding that what was “exclusive” about the report is that “it was completely fucking wrong.” Stewart topped off his critique with the following astute insight: “We’re accustomed to 24-hour news networks thriving on conflict. Generally, though, that conflict is between two outside parties — political opponents, pundits — but CNN’s reporters have discovered that they can remove the middle man and spend hours of programming fighting amongst themselves. They have figured out a way to shit in their own mouths. CNN has become the Human Centipede of News.” Stewart’s superb takedown of CNN impelled us to revisit the best of the political satirist’s verbal crusades against the mainstream media.

Jon Stewart vs. Fox News, 2009

As Fox News zeroes in on a big breaking news story – some school kids in New Jersey singing about President Obama (with a speculation that they’ve been “indoctrinated”) – Stewart hammers home their redundancy as a viable news platform. In this hilarious segment, spotted on MediaMatters, Stewart emphatically denounces Fox’s slew of opinion shows as “not news,” distinguishing between fact and fiction. Over at Fox, news is “opinutainment,” he joked, appropriately using a made-up word to talk about made-up facts. Here’s the truth, according to Jon Stewart: “the news side of Fox and the opinion side of Fox are like the McDLT. The hot side stays hot, and the cool side stays cool. But when you put them together and eat it – well, I think you know what ends up happening.” Equating Fox with a shitty – and now extinct – McDonalds burger is quite brilliant.

Jon Stewart vs. Crossfire, 2004

Stewart’s appearance on CNN’s debate show Crossfire saw him face hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala in the lead-up to the 2004 presidential elections, making a case against the performance of the media around the elections while urging Carlson and Begala to stop “hurting America.” Readily admitting that he’s there because he watches the show everyday and “can’t take it anymore,” Stewart tells the hosts – much to their visible chagrin – “You’re doing theater when you should be doing debate. What you do is partisan hackery.” Ouch. As Carlson and Begala make a feeble-handed attempt to shirk off Stewart’s criticisms, knowing not what else to do, they give in to nervous laughter. “I thought you were gonna be funny. C’mon, be funny,” Carson sheepishly jibes. “I’m not gonna be your monkey,” Stewart retorts, getting the audience on his side. With Stewart, reason usually comes with a dose of humor, though he’s very serious when he says, “I’m here to confront you because we need help from the media, and they’re hurting us.”

Jon Stewart vs. Conservative Commentators on Republicans on Rape, 2012

As a reaction to absurd and horrifying comments from various Republican party members, including Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, Stewart’s “Republican Candidate Said What About Rape Now?” segment not only attacks the individuals in question – referring to Akin’s horrifying assumption that when raped, women can apparently choose not to get pregnant, Stewart announces, “Todd Akin on the vagina’s magical powers” – but the media coverage surrounding such ridiculous claims. Stewart criticizes one Republican news anchor in particular, who points out the tactical error of a Republican’s words on rape but fails to see the flaw in the statement itself. The issue, according to that pundit, is that “they’re driving away so many swing voters.” And there, Stewart proclaims, rests the problem.

Jon Stewart vs. CNN (again), 2010

In another critical crusade against CNN, as a guest star on Larry King Live, Jon Stewart tells King, who’s leaving the network, “you’re the last guy out of a burning building.” After challenging CNN’s firing of Rick Sanchez after he called Stewart a bigot, King presses Stewart on why he picks on CNN so much. “You’re terrible,” Stewart replies. He follows up with his dismay at the “idea that CNN has this infrastructure, that they have all this international reach, they have all this technology. It sometimes feels squandered.” With his attacks, Stewart offers potential solutions: “I think CNN has an opportunity to be a real arbiter. But being a real arbiter means taking a stand.”

Jon Stewart vs. Chris Wallace and Fox News, 2011

Chris Wallace is thrilled to have Jon Stewart on Fox News. Wallace can’t wait to prove the comedian wrong. Of course, Stewart outsmarts him. “Where do you come up with this stuff?” Wallace asks in earnest. “I’m a comedian first,” Stewart says. “Being a comedian is harder than what you do.” He goes on to defend his criticism of Fox News, making the apt case that, essentially, Stewart is “given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has with what the media does.” Stewart is attacking the proliferation of misinformation and bias – and who, he asks, are “the most consistently misinformed media viewers? …Fox viewers!”

Jon Stewart vs. CNN (one last time), 2013

In case you hadn’t noticed, Jon Stewart does not like CNN. In this nifty montage of his criticism of the network interspersed with clips of its careless reporting – and one scene of Jack Nicholson axing down a wall in The Shining (get it? He means the CNN reporters are hacks!) – he decides that “CNN, in recent years, has represented neither the Left nor the Right, but really more of a steady spiral downward.”