On yesterday's Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace had plenty of criticism for President Obama and obstinate politicians on both sides of the aisle, most notably Ted Cruz and Harry Reid, along with various pundits have provided enough soundbites for a years of standup.
In contrast, on Friday Huffington Post Comedy predictably reported Jon Stewart’s latest critique of Fox News, which he affectionately refers to as “Bullsh*t Mountain,” to the delight of the fans who would presumably adore both sources. HuffPo stated for the benefit of its like-minded readers and viewers
“As Republicans amped up their attempts to recast the government shutdown as an Obama-helmed initiative, Jon Stewart took a look at how Fox News has taken the ball and run with it... right up to the peak of Bullsh*t Mountain. Not since the 2012 election have we seen such creativity in reporting.”
Of course, as per usual the HP and Stewart manage to cover only one side of the story, neglecting to mention coverage such as Ed Schultz’ insistence that Fox is behind a myth regarding Obamacare flaws by declaring “There are no glitches!” Schultz delivered his usual bombastic "journalism" despite the fact that no one has been able to actually sign up and a simple attempt to set up an account in Texas and many other places stated quite simply: “the system is unavailable.”
Even more fascinating is Schultz' short-term memory regarding his MSNBC colleague Mara Schiavocampo who proclaimed "if I were signing up for myself, this is where my patience would be exhausted,” after repeated attempts online and via phone to get set up. While not favorable toward the implementation of the PPACA, her report was encouraging as evidence that some real journalism might occasionally be available on MSNBC is lieu of the usual DNC PR campaign.
Of course, there also isn't much doubt Fox News leans the other way, nor how much responsibility the GOP deserves for the shutdown, which they sped toward on Cruz control after spending much of the last two years trying to repeal Obamacare but offering no substantial suggestions for alternatives.
However, the Democrats have now responded in kind. As Chris Wallace pointed out on Sunday while speaking to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the president’s refusal to negotiate is unprecedented.
“Despite these stakes, the president is refusing to negotiate. What’s unprecedented is not Congress tying strings; what’s unprecedented is a president refusing to negotiate. This has happened over and over again, and presidents have negotiated…in 1997 you were deputy director the OMB when the debt limit was tied to measures to balance the budget. If it was good enough for Bill Clinton to sit down with the House Speaker, why is not good enough for Barack Obama?”
Sadly, it’s old news indeed that things have changed at Comedy Central, prompting Mediate columnist Joe Concha to recommend Stewart move on when his contract expires in 2015. Why? Because while there's no denying Stewart's talent, he’s become a one-trick pony:
“You know the drill...Stewart jumps into big news of the day, bashes Fox News, bashes CNN, does everything humanly possible to avoid remotely offending MSNBC, bashes Republicans, does everything humanly possible to avoid remotely offending Democrats, and the rest is YouTube history.
That’s not to say that Stewart shouldn’t take Fox or CNN or the GOP to task when they screw up or say or do something insane. Of course not. It’s all fair game…always has been since the show premiered back in 1996.
But what always separated The Daily Show from anything else on television is a willingness to take everyone and anyone to task. To serve as an equal-opportunity offender. To not pick a side. “
Those were the days my friend.
While Jay Leno, not generally known as being a “conservative” comedian, delivered a scathing shutdown-themed monologue aimed at President Obama, Stewart just stayed the course.
Concha went on to point out:
“Ed Schultz blames Fox News for claiming Fox is responsible for the Obamacare “glitches” narrative when the President himself and an MSNBC reporter (unsuccessfully trying to log on to healthcare.gov) acknowledged that glitches existed. Touré makes a huge gaffe in attempting to show where Kenya is on a map, and spectacularly fails. Alec Baldwin attacks Joe Scarborough before his show even launches, only to later delete the tweet (because, you know, nobody will notice that). All of these moments have been widely reported in the media world, but just couldn’t quite pass the Stewart comedy gold standard.”
Stewart, whose real name is Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, has never made his political leanings a secret and his fans defend him because “he’s a comedian;” yet the demographics show that his audience often uses the show differently. Almost a decade ago, studies showed the younger generation was gathering their “news” from Stewart as much as actual news organizations, following a significant upward trend. The Associate Press reported in March of 2004:
“A poll released earlier this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 cited “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live” as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news.
By contrast, 23 percent of the young people mentioned ABC, CBS or NBC’s nightly news broadcasts as a source.
Even more startling is the change from just four years ago. When the same question was asked in 2000, Pew found only 9 percent of young people pointing to the comedy shows and 39 percent to the network news shows.”
While Fox continues to dominate CNN and MSNBC and features the most popular show on cable news, cable still lags behind the networks, with the O’Reilly factor getting about 2.5 million total viewers nightly, the networks are still far ahead with last-place CBS’ six million. However, it’s been a couple of years since Stewart’s nightly audience moved past anything on cable news other than O’Reilly and continues to be strong in the coveted young demographic.
Fox gets a lot of abuse from more people than Jon Stewart. A couple of years ago, Indiana’s Kathy Harbaugh of the Facebook group Kick-Butt Liberals, proudly proclaimed how she had demanded a local Applebee’s change the channel on their TV when she saw Fox News showing because having to watch FNC would be like forcing a Republican to watch an abortion. And one of the most common criticisms is that they are not “Fair and Balanced” while MSNBC gets a pass for supposedly admitting they are a liberal network. Presumably that is characterized by mentioning "Lean Forward?"
But as Ted Koppel demonstrated in a series of reports assessing cable news, the partisan news business is very profitable and it’s possibly doing more than people realize to drive the acrimony both inside and far outside of the Washington. The effect of Stewart's show, as well as for any other popular political commentator, should not be understated.
And since business is business, what is the likely ideal situation for Stewart? Concha recommends:
“Ultimately, the best move for Stewart in 2015 is to sign with MSNBC if they’re smart enough to pay him whatever he wants. A good portion of their programming is geared toward bashing the competition in Fox and CNN–all while protecting Democrats at all costs–so he’ll obviously feel right at home.”