Jon Stewart on 'The Rachel Maddow Show': 'We have a special place in our hearts for Fox'

Jon Stewart’s hour-long interview on The Rachel Maddow Show was remarkable for Stewart’s unprecedented openness about where he stands when he’s not making jokes.

Because Stewart respects Maddow, he took her up on her invitation to clarify the message many believed he sent out at his “Rally To Restore Sanity”: That there’s a parity of invective on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel. Stewart said his intention was “misperceived,” and what he wanted people to walk away with was the idea that too many have “bought into the idea that the conflict [in America] is left versus right” when the conflict is actually “corruption versus not-corruption” and that “both sides have their ways of shutting down debate.” He told Maddow it’s a matter of “tone, not content” — i.e., that one side may make more sense, but both are yelling too loudly, sensationalizing serious ideas. He also said of the speech he gave at the end of his rally, he felt that after “12 years, I’d earned a moment to tell people who I was.”

Stewart told Maddow, “I love the voices that I hear on MSNBC” and that among The Daily Show staff, “we have a special place in our hearts for Fox,” and you can bet he meant that last quote sarcastically. He told Maddow, “you can edit this out,” but “I like you.”

These are merely the entertainment headlines to be gleaned from their discussion. Certainly it was more clear than ever before that Stewart considers himself a thoughtful partisan satirist who — despite his mild protests that he’s a critic (he likened himself to Roger Ebert, was the example he used) who’s “in the stands and [not] on the playing field,” as he insisted Maddow is — is inevitably a player in the national discourse. I’m not going to try and boil down what was a long, interesting discussion of how politics and broadcast journalism conspire, resist, bait, and feed off each other. You can — should — go to maddowblog.msnbc.com to watch the entire interview.

Photo credit: NBC/Virginia Sherwood

Comments (201 total) Add your comment
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  • Slovo

    It was an interesting interview, but I kind of think Jon has painted himself into a corner and it having difficulty figuring out how to get out.

    • jackson

      Agreed. He knows he’s made a false argument, and he’s simultaneously trying to embrace it and distance himself from it.

      • Amanda Kiwinerd

        Bullcrap.

      • K. Harker

        False argument? You don’t watch the Daily Show at all do you. You just watched the mainstream media’s response to the rally – they completely missed the point as Stewart pointed out here. The argument he presented in this interview is exactly what he was saying the rally was about on his show for the past month.

      • Becky

        Who is that Guy in the picture with Jon?

      • B

        Grow up, Becky.

      • Been there

        Don’t grow up, Becky. That comment was awesome.

      • john

        I thought it was a guy, too, but i don’t have cable.

      • The Rammer

        Valid point. Never heard of Rachel Maddow before this article, so at first glance looked like a dude to me, but then realized few dudes are named Rachel or wear outfits from Ellen Degeneres’s closet.

      • Thad

        Haha! It’s funny because she’s gay!

        I am 8 years old.

      • Uther

        I don’t know Becky, but he’s hella sexy.

      • Franklin

        Jim J. Bullock has his own show?

      • cndn610

        I’m amazed by the immaturity show here about Rachel’s appearance. First, she is an attractive woman who is comfortable in her own skin. She has an incredible intellect and isn’t afraid to use it instead of blonde sexuality as seen on Fox. Their vapid news fembots couldn’t last a minute in an actual discussion of any topic in the news with Maddow.

    • Caroline

      How? This is actually what Stewart’s been saying for years, since Crossfire – that he considers himself first and foremost as a comedian, one who can satirize the national discourse and point out their faults (and may unintentionally result in facilitating national discourse) but he’s not a political pundit or “legit” the way Rachel Maddow is. This is how he genuinely sees himself, which may be different from how everyone else sees him.

      • tim

        i agree – don’t grow up becky. that guy is norman bates.
        can we all stop taking ourselves so seriously?

    • Marko

      Slovo and Jackson – you speak nonsense. Please try to explain what you mean by false argument.

  • RG

    I don’t understand. I thought that Stewart’s rally was to say that the media tends to be the problem, but now he’s saying that he loves MSNBC and blames Fox News. Now I don’t care if he prefers one to another, but wasn’t the point to bring people together. People who watch FOX news are allowed to believe what they like to be believe as well, right? I’m probably reading the statement wrong, so if anyone wants to clarify. ..

    • Anna

      You can believe what you want without misrepresenting and exaggerating your opponents views. That’s the point. You may not like Obama but you don’t have to be a genius to know he is not a nazi or a muslim. He is not trying to take away anyones rights. And it is understandable Jon Stewart does not like Fox with their Holier than thou attitude. Anyone with half a brain knows they are the most biased news organization yet they have the galls to call other people out. I guess they forget the part in the bible where it says remove the log from your eyes so you can see to remove the speck from anothers eyes.

      • Moderate

        Some of us see Keith Olbermann and MSNBC just as extreme and biased as Fox News. Both are holier than thou.

      • LOL

        Moderate, the tone might be similar (as Stewart suggests), but the content is much different.

      • Victor Edwards

        LOL is right. One such example is the $200,000,000 per day cost of Obama’s trip. This was gospel truth on FOX, but in fact it was a pants-on-fire lie that FOX gleefully took up and ran with.

      • David

        Both FOX and MSNBC are extreme. The biggest difference is that FOX draws a line between their “News” shows and their “Opinion/Pundit” shows….MSNBC has blurred that line by having their “Opinion” people hosting news events.

        Also, the $200,000,000 trip was reported on Hannity’s radio show (an opinion show, not news), not on any news program on Fox. It was reported as news after members of the Congress brought it up…and again, not as reporting “News” of the expense, but reports of what it has been suggested to cost.

        It really is crazy what people will believe, and the difference between fact and reported.

        Just an idea….start with “My opinion is” instead of just stating things as fact and people will be more likely to listen, and not just disagree.

        Also, I’m a registered independent, socially liberal, fiscally conservative. And, I watch both MSNBC and FOX regularly.

      • UncleWalty

        David, the fact that Fox only ran with the $200M a day story after Michelle Bachmann brought it up doesn’t excuse the fact that Fox is IN THE LEAST guilty by association of spreading an outright lie. “We report, you decide” does not mean that you can throw just any bullsh*t on the air and have the viewer make up his mind as to whether it’s truthful or credible or not. You still have an obligation to report the news accurately.

      • LoveBug68

        I don’t care if its a news show, an entertainment show or a comedy show…providing made up garbage as fact it wrong and it is the difference between Fox and every other news source. The amount of lies and misinformation at FOX is what has divide this country.

      • David and Blow-lie-eth

        David
        Fox fed the wolves and then claimed the wolves fed them. You know how it works.

      • Marko

        David – you are an apologist lackey for Fox News. It’s ok for Fox News employees (like Hannity) to lie as long as it’s not a news program? Seriously? Dude, get your head out of your you-know-what.

      • Mosser

        It comes down to this:
        regardless of whether its a “news” show or a “opinion” show; the fact is its being broadcast on a channel with NEWS in the title. You cant present yourself as a journalistic organization then pump the air full of personal spin and downright lying. its one or the other, news or entertainment; cant do both legitimately

    • Chris

      Your question is a good one, because he’s not making sense. He was saying both the left & right are overwrought, but when the lefties protested that “they’re much worse than us!”–which was comic given the intent of the rally–even though Stewart made fun of them originally, his liberalism made him essentially agree with them. Too bad.

      • K. Harker

        Did you watch the interview? He is saying that it’s not about right vs. wrong, or left vs. right; it’s about decibel levels. He says that he agrees with their political ideals more, but that they are too guilty of amplifying and distorting the news to the point that people can’t discern what is fact and what is opinion.

        And to be fair, while MSNBC is completely biased, Fox is operating on it’s own playing field in opinion as news. Just look at what they did with the “fact” of Obama’s $200 million/day trip. Heresay is gospel on Fox, so in truth, they are worse. Of course, that doesn’t make MSNBC a good alternative. There’s no unbiased media available today. It’s too much about business and not enough about news.

      • Marko

        K. Harker – you are right to question whether Chris watched the interview as I doubt most of the people commenting here have not watched it.
        The entire point of his rally is best summed up in one of the posters he displayed on his show “I disagree with you but I’m pretty sure you are not hitler.” Bring it down a notch or two. Don’t hyperanalyze his motive.

  • sean

    can’t wait to watch this tomorrow!

  • MJ

    Agree with idea of Jon painting himself into a corner. I thought he was speaking in circles. While Rachel wanted answers to specifics, he seemed to want to talk in generalities. He also didn’t seem to want to take ownership of his comments (mostly the video at the rally) of the left vs. the right. He did lump MSNBC into the same wavelength as FOX and in the interview he distanced himself from that point. Although I like and respect both of them, I find I understood Rachel’s questions and views more clearly. Jon’s were a bit fuzzy at times.

    • HTW

      Yes, Jon was a bit fuzzy, but he was also totally sick with the stomach flu! We can give him a bit of a break tonight for being less coherent than he usually is.

    • Rachel

      Wow, thank you HTW, you just said everything that I was thinking but couldn’t quite put into words. I’m a big Jon Stewart fan, but I had a lot of trouble following him during this interview. He was definitely talking in circles and he never really responded to the false equivalency accusation or to Rachel’s point that they are all doing political commentary, so why is hers news and his entertainment?

    • Rachel

      Wow, thank you MJ, you just said everything that I was thinking but couldn’t quite put into words. I’m a big Jon Stewart fan, but I had a lot of trouble following him during this interview. He was definitely talking in circles and he never really responded to the false equivalency accusation or to Rachel’s point that they are all doing political commentary, so why is hers news and his entertainment?

  • M

    My guess RG is that we are missing important context. But it also could mean that he agrees a little more politically with MSNBC, which would surprise no one. It does seem like he stuck to his main message that people need to stop screaming at each other and have civil debate. He has never claimed not to have his own political opinion.

    • llevinso

      That’s what I got from it. I don’t see why people seem so confused and upset by this. Jon Stewart has never claimed to NOT be a liberal but he’s just saying all the media outlets (Fox AND MSNBC) need to stop overhyping certain issues and have more civil debates. Stop screaming at each other and get down to the real issues at hand.

      • fizzy

        llevinso – You hit the nail on the head.

    • Leila

      Coming from another country, I understand what Jon Stewart means. The American media is a circus, news shows are too sensationalist and biased, not to mention the fluff and crime stories that take time away from real news.

      • K. Harker

        I agree Leila, I live in another country too, and am regularly shocked by what passes for news media in America. Don’t get me wrong, we have our problems too, but our news is much less about sensationalism and much more boring reporting of facts. They wouldn’t get very high ratings in America.

  • Shawn

    I respect Jon Stewart and believe he is one of the great satirists of this time, but he needs to realize that he is in the same league as the talking heads on the news channel. Yes, he’s a comedian on a comedy network, but that doesn’t diminish his influence and doesn’t put him in the stands, it puts him on the field with the others. I think he needs to give himself more credit.

    • Dough

      Agreed. He needs to give himself more credit, while at the same time he needs to stop feigning ignorance when it comes to his voice having an impact on where voter’s opinions lie.

    • annie

      i think he doesnt want the credit – he’s much more comfortable staying behind the “safe” lines of comedy than saying his views outright – its the best position for attack and defense!

      • K. Harker

        I agree with what you say, but also understand that as a comedian, he has broader license with his material. Comedians throughout history have served the role of pointing out social and political problems when no one else could – the label of “comedy” renders the message more palatable than it otherwise might be. Comedy makes things that are hard to talk and think about easier to take. He is probably somewhat reluctant to release himself from this role; as a pundit or real anchor, he would be much more restricted than he is in his current role.

  • Jesse

    I am super liberal, but why does everyone talk about Jon Stewart ALL the time?

  • dan

    Jon actually just shared the thoughts that many of us in the middle share…I thought his point on how msnbc minimizes left wing actions and criticizes right wing behavior was spot on…Both sides are the problem…Both Fox News and MSNBC are both a problem…I don’t care how either positions itself to the public, the simple fact is that they both declare themselves right and the other wrong and in the process they demonize the opposition and alienate a large percentage of the population…I think Glen Beck and Kieth Olberman are both two of the bigegst blowhards on TV today and Keith Olberman’s worst people segement of the show is just an example of pure incinderary material that Jon was speaking of…

    • tisha

      But the bottom line is that there is such a thing as truth. And tone issues aside, one of those hosts speaks considerably more truth than the other. And it’s ludicrous that we should ignore that when we lump them together to make an argument about tone.

      • sue

        Go back and listen again to the segment about Bush. Your truth is different from truth. I find Kieth way off all the time and very far from the truth.

      • dan

        I respect your opinion, but can you honestly tell me for a fact what the truth is? Do you know something everyone else doesn’t…Have you crawled inside of G.W. Bush’s mind and truly know why he did the things he did or are you forming your OPINIONS based on what youve read or heard because that only means you know certain facts or parts of the story… I mean I don’t claim to know the truth and thats not to say I am uneducated but there are always two sides to the story, two different views points and not necessarily one right answer, so who are we to decide what the truth is for everyone else…The same reason I have the right to believe one is thing is the reason someone else has the right to believe the exact oppisite…People are way too concerned with trying to make everyone fall in line with what they believe to be correct…Fox News, MSNBC and the rest of the lot…While Stewart wasn;’t always articulate, Maddow seemed to keep trying to say they were not as bad as the right and thus proved his point…

      • llevinso

        You can call it the “truth” all you want, but if you present it in such a manner as you are better than everyone else and anyone that even questions you in the slightest is the biggest idiot on the planet, well people aren’t going to listen and they’re going to turn away from your point. And I’m saying this as a liberal. That’s part of Jon’s point. Stop screaming at each other and have a more civil discourse.

      • Songsmythe

        NO!!! It is definitely NOT ludicrous. ONCE YOU START YELLING THE CONTENT OF YOUR ARGUMENT MATTERS FAR LESS THAN THE EMOTION YOU ENGENDER. Try it deliberately and note the results.

    • cj

      Keith stopped running his Worst Persons segment after the rally.

  • Tamika

    He was horribly inarticulate in expressing his point. His analogies didn’t make any sense it was word-smithing at its worst. I mean come on…. Fox news is idealogical but not partisan? Give me a break. Is he looking for them to hire him?

    • Craig

      By incessantly whining that they’re not as bad as the right, the left media ends up completely proving Stewart’s point.
      Why anybody would watch either of these two blowhard networks (foxnews/msnbc) is the real question.

      • Josie

        I feel so much happier now I uednrstand all this. Thanks!

    • VSAF

      Fox News is not partisan because they are in it for the money. If Murdoch realized the Democrats were in the same position as the Republicans in terms of money-making potential, his network would look a little different. The thing is, the Republican party has, since Reagan, helped the rich get richer. Furthermore, Republicans have generally been better than Democrats at delivering their talking points consistently, which makes Murdoch’s job that much easier.

  • Slezak

    Rachel Maddow is not a place to go and maintain any credibility.

    • gusdad

      That Maddow guy looks kinda like a girl sometimes. It’s creepy.

  • Raine

    I thought it was an engaging and thoughtful interview. I do think with his rally that Jon Stewart has thrown his hat into the national discourse, whether he wants to admit it or not. However, he avoided the actual politics of our current problems (though he is clearly liberal) and instead became the sharpest critic of modern political media (cable news, blogosphere, etc.) to date.

    Maddow is right in her skepticism of Stewart’s supposed neutrality. But his point is far more important in that cable news has become an echo chamber in which it is no longer about reporting news and facts…its about proving your side is right and the others are evil. Fox may be the worst of this, but it does not excuse the behavior that has contributed to the most polarized and broken discourse since the Civil War. Around the rise of cable news in the ’90s was the beginning of the modern partisan gridlock. If you divide it into “us vs. them,” we as a country cannot move in any direction.

    That was Stewart’s point. And it is a valid one.

    • dan

      well put!

    • Al

      Thank you Raine. I was at the Rally and your statements pretty much encapsulate why I went. I lean to the left, but have many Republican friends. We find the common ground. And we do it using our inside voices….

      • Dan

        I thought the part of the interview where Jon talked about the tea party was really important…While I personally dont identify, these labels tend to get thrown onto people by those who like to yell the loudest…I have never voted a straight party line for this very reason…being a republican or democrat does not mean you adhere to all the labels attached to the party by the opinion shows…I would say I am a moderate republican and I voted for gay marriage and oppose views within the party, but to be honest there is no perfect candidate…I thought when Stewart talked about how just because people associate with a certain idea doesn’t make them bad in one way or another…I always point out to my friends on both sides, the reason you have your right to do something is the same reason those who oppose you can voice their disagreement…When Rachel Maddow brought up the Koran burner, its stuff like that that annoys me…I would say with some certainty that the large majority on both sides of the discussion thought the pastor was way out of line but he has the right to burn them…The news shows just magnified the issue by covering it non stop for days on end…I have to believe idiots act out everyday around the world and this particular story just fit into the political narrative…Im proud to say that I am able to sit down with those from the other party and have peaceful dialogue where ideas and philosophies can be flushed out for the better…

    • llevinso

      I think something you brought up is very valid. I think because MSNBC sees Fox as the “worst” at this and because Jon is liberal that they expected to get a free pass from him. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t do the same stuff as Fox a lot of the time. And just because in some people’s eyes they “aren’t as bad” as Fox doesn’t mean we should just give them a pass. And I’m glad Jon didn’t.

    • kate

      I wish more people would come to the educated conclusions you have just espoused. I used to love MSNBC-especially Keith and Chris, but their decibel level has risen too high and if I want news I go to CNN. I want the hate brought down a couple of notches.

  • Amanda Kiwinerd

    I love Jon Stewart, but i cannot stand to hear an hour of her garbage.

  • Olden Atwoody

    “He told Maddow, “you can edit this out,” but “I like you.””.

    Jon – she’s a lesbian.

    • Gazza

      and he’s married (unfortunately D:)

    • Uther

      What does that have to do with anything. I’ve never even heard her mention Beirut.

  • StanG

    I just read all the comments and noticed something very, very strange.

    No one is using ALL CAPS!!!
    No one is calling anyone else a wingnut or worse.
    The comments are all thoughtful.
    WTF??? What happened? Are we all suddenly trying to “… get along”?

    • Zen Bard

      Maybe Stewart’s rally actually worked…

    • Remy

      I was thinking the exact same thing. A real discussion is going on here. Has sanity been restored? Bravo, Mr. Stewart. :)

      • CD

        Except for the blantant homophobic comments right above here, making fun of Rachel for being a lesbian. Her sexuality has nothing to do with this.

      • Jos

        Yeah, clearly those comments were made by people who have a phobia of homosexuals. That must be the reason why people make jokes in general – FEAR. And Jon Stewart is a politicophobe, Jay Leno is a celibrityphobe, and the Family Guy show is full of writers who are popularcultureophobes. Makes sense. Jokes=FEAR. Yep.

    • kate

      We’re adults?? This article hasn’t been jumped on by Fox news addicts?

  • Peter

    It was a fun interview. The simple point Jon finally almost sorta admitted, is that it is best for him to poke fun of both the left and the right. Rachel is exceptionally accurate and funny, and so she took herself as the specific contradiction to being lumped in with Fox’s obvious bious.
    Jon is great, and the most important news on TV, with better fact verification than any network. But it is hard to be 100% right in every word. Note Jon responded to Rachel’s point she was just one person with a short show, with Jon complaining Fox repeats the theme unfairly. Umm, well, Colbert does follow TDS, doesn’t it? That is the 1-2 punch I love, and then they repeat it 3 times a day. If Comedy Central could afford it, ie, if they had an audience to sustain it, they would add similar shows to fill 24 hours. Their other shows are fun, based toward the same theme audience. And I love them for it.
    Jon seems to have got a touch of the Dylan head whiplash, ie, when so many annointed Dylan as the next prophet, Dylan went out of his way to say he had nothing to say, and didn’t really mean what he did say, even though he did…

    • Alan

      “Fun’ is not an adjective.

      • Jos

        Let Peter have his fun.

      • Thad

        …did you just say “fun” is not an adjective?

    • Uther

      –adjective
      4. Informal. of or pertaining to fun, esp. to social fun: a fun thing to do; really a fun person.
      5. Informal . whimsical; flamboyant: The fashions this year are definitely on the fun side.

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