Jon Stewart: Weinergate has not been his finest hour


I am not going to go crazy about this, but I would like those of you who slavishly accept any criticism Jon Stewart offers of the mainstream media as a kind of absolute truth, to go back and look at this video of Stewart’s first take on the Weiner crotchshot. It’s from May 31.

I would like you to also consider his shifty effort Monday night to quickly pivot away from Weiner’s bombshell confession earlier in the day by attacking John Edwards.

Let’s be honest about this: Stewart has behaved badly when it comes to Weiner the past few days. In fact, he’s looked kind of confused and pathetic at times, particularly in his wrongheaded criticism of the media.

The early locker-room jokes in the May 31 video don’t matter much. Nor do all the middle-school references to size. What matters to me is Stewart’s criticism of media coverage, particularly CNN’s, which he really goes after during the last 90 seconds or so of the video. Pay special attention to the way he singles out Dana Bash and John King, who I think did excellent work. You can read my analysis of CNN’s performance here.

Stewart was dead wrong in his criticism of the way the mainstream press was trying to get at the story that came to light yesterday. Bash and her producer were exemplary, in fact. But Stewart tried to ridicule their efforts.

I’d like to think that perhaps his friendship with the creepy Weiner clouded Stewart’s judgment, but he has been wrong in his media criticism before — and no one called him on it. My take on why he gets a free pass is that many media critics aren’t sure of their own values and standards. The one thing they know, though, is that they are scared to death of being ridiculed by Stewart.

Read more

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I saw the Stewart episodes in person and I agree, for the most part. However, Stewart was more critical of Weiner than described in the linked article. Stewart actually said, after Weiner’s initial explanations last week words to the effect that “if you actually sent photos of yourself to a young woman, you have to go.” This was in the process of Stewart expressing his exasperated incredulity over Weiner’s lame explanation that he couldn’t “with certitude” assert that the crotch shot in question wasn’t his own.

I think that the current problem is that Weiner is a personal friend of Stewart’s and Stewart, being human as well as being a fake journalist (as he proudly calls himself), just can’t bring himself to a kick a friend when he’s down, no matter how deserving the friend is of being so kicked.

I think that it’s reprehensible to send photos of that nature to unwilling recipients, whatever the other considerations. The fact that he had such a high profile job, ostensibly in service of his constituents at home and colleagues in Congress, and had a great many examples of the fragility of the concept of privacy to serve as cautionary tales, makes his actions not only reprehensible but bizarre.

He needs to go and he needs to go quickly.

As for Stewart, I’d give him a pass on this one. I think that he was a tough as he could be, given that the subject was a personal friend.

– Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA

I watched both episodes of The Daily Show. The background is that Stewart and a group of Stewart’s college friends and Anthony Weiner shared a summer house in the 1980s. So Weiner and Stewart became friends. According to Stewart, Weiner’s press conference confession came at 4:30 PM and the taping of that day’s “Daily Show” was to begin at 6 PM. So there wasn’t a lot of time to cobble together a show featuring Weiner, and, anyway, Stewart’s heart clearly wasn’t in it, as, that evening, in his brief remarks about the Weiner press conference, Stewart said “and then the story turned sad.” He quickly transitioned into the previously-planned John Edwards roast.

The next night, he still didn’t spend a whole lot of time roasting Weiner, although he did get in a couple of zingers. Instead, he did a parody of himself as Weiner, doing a mea culpa addressed to all those who’d criticized him for not saying much about the Weiner press conference the previous day.

The next day after that, he got in a couple of pretty formulaic Weiner jokes, but he still seems uncomfortable doing it.

I think that Stewart’s performance can be viewed two ways. He can be criticized for not skewering Weiner more than he has (although there is hardly a dearth of Weiner skewering available for general consumption; so it’s not as if we are all being deprived of this). On the other hand, he can be viewed as a not indecent human being for trying to balance his responsibilities as a fake journalist with his emotions as a friend. Were he a justice and were this a court case, he’d have recused himself. Under the circumstances, I think that he’s just doing the best that he can.

I’m not Weiner’s friend and I think that he’s doing a disservice to everyone, including his constituents, party, country, and wife by failing to do what Chris Lee did, in a similar circumstance, only a short while ago — namely, to fall on his sword and retreat to the private world to rebuild his life.

– Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA