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Jon Stewart: Obama's Court Jester

How Jon Stewart gladly helped the neocons gin up a new cold war

With the news that Jon Stewart met secretly with President Obama, it’s getting a little difficult for Team America to keep us all convinced that the United States has a free press. Politico’s revelation that Stewart was providing slanted coverage for Obama policies means it is time to take Stewart off his pedestal.

I can say this without malice because I voted for Obama twice. I also used to be a religious viewer of The Daily Show, and its spinoff, The Colbert Report. Up until the Ukraine crisis, I was a good little Democrat, I swear. I even went to the “Rally to Restore Sanity” in in Washington D.C. in 2010.

<figcaption>More Americans get their news from this guy than from any other source</figcaption>
More Americans get their news from this guy than from any other source

As the investigative report reveals, Obama and his aides “took unusual steps to cultivate ‘Daily Show’ comic, during at least one crucial time of Obama’s presidency”:

“In February 2014, Obama again requested Stewart make the trip from Manhattan to the White House, this time for a mid-morning visit hours before the president would go before television cameras to warn Russia that “there will be costs” if it made any further military intervention in Ukraine.”

And lo and behold, on the very next Daily Show, Stewart’s commentary included:

“a segment titled ‘It’s a Vlad, Vlad, Vlad, Vlad World,’ [where] Stewart giggled as he displayed a picture of the shirtless Russian leader — ‘Heil Titler,’ he joked. Then he showed a video of Vladimir Putin at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and wondered if he was ‘even paying attention at the Olympics? … Or did you consider the parade of nations a browsing opportunity?’”



Sanity: Not Restored

Stewart’s coverage of Putin, Ukraine, and Russia has been slanted and cynical. The Daily Show’s Russophobia became so vile during Sochi that the Washington Post (yes, that WaPo) called Stewart to task over a mean and not funny Jason Jones segment ridiculing Russians. Stewart shilled the Obama position on Crimea, calling Putin a liar over the Russian troop presence. Not once during a February 25 segment did Stewart address the illegality of the Ukraine coup.  Stewart is a descendant of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, yet during this segment, he did not mention the Svoboda or Banderist factions at Maidan. He insinuated that Yanukovych was a dictator, and called the protesters “brave.” Stewart has placed all the blame for the Ukraine crisis on Russia, and earlier this year accused Putin of planning the Nemtsov murder.

Obama’s choice to cultivate Stewart as a propaganda agent was politically savvy. Stewart’s half-hour satirical look at the news of the day, and his regular skewering of mainstream news, particularly his heckling of the lunacy at Fox News, turned the former stand-up comedian into major pop culture icon, especially among young liberals. Nearly 40 percent of his viewership was under 30, with an additional 36 percent between the ages of 30 and 49. This is an important voting block for Obama. For many Americans, Stewart has served as their main source of news.  The Daily Show was often the voice of reason amid media sensationalism and hysteria. Stewart’s commentary on American social and economic issues was thoughtful and on point.

Stewart made his living off mocking mainstream news, and so when all media networks went into full propaganda mode on Russia, I expected a little more of the usual rationality I had come to expect from the Daily Show. Instead, all I heard from him was a slightly more jesting version of the drivel that was coming from the cable news talking heads.

Only it wasn’t funny.

To Russia With Tiresome Antipathy

Timing is everything.

Obama needed to shore up Stewart’s support before going public with his threats against Russia. Stewart is a staunch Democrat; he was already going to go to bat for Obama. He has definitely criticized  Obama, but more or less toed the party line. Likewise, most Daily Show viewers were Obama supporters. Was the White House afraid that one of the Democratic party’s main spokespeople would break ranks on Ukraine? After all, Obama was using neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine -- elements that lionize Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, and possibly that might not have sat well with Stewart, considering his family hailed from Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Or perhaps Obama knew that in Stewart, he would have a willing partner to lend credibility to his reckless and dishonest anti-Russian policy. Stewart’s hatred of Putin appears sincere. He slammed Putin’s thoughtful September 2013 New York Times editorial. Or maybe it’s self-hating disdain for Eastern Europe that motivated Stewart.

Regardless of the reason, Stewart’s guests over the past several years have included Zbiginew Brzezinski in 2007 and  Masha Gessen in 2012. His guests since the February 2014 meeting have stayed on message. Stewart hosted Sarah Firth, who claimed she quit RT in protest over its MH-17 coverage, on July 29, 2014.  Her problem with RT’s coverage? RT interviewed eyewitnesses who laid the blame on Ukraine.  Another guest was Ben Steele, director of Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia, in October of 2014.  However, in February 2015, Stewart announced he was stepping down, and a month later, he conducted a thoughtful and sympathetic interview with hockey legend Viacheslav Fetisov, and  half-jokingly invited Putin onto the show.

Follow the Money

Another alternative is that Stewart was simply serving his corporate masters:

“Jon Stewart weighed in on the $1 million News Corp. donation on [an August 18, 2010] episode of The Daily Show, mocking Fox News’ desire to “follow the money” when its parent company is donating directly to political parties.

“However, National Amusements, which owns Viacom — and therefore, Comedy Central, on which Stewart’s show appears – has so far donated more than $330,000 to political organizations during the 2010 election cycle for a total of almost $900,000 since the 2006 election cycle. Before it was purchased by National Amusements in 2005, Viacom gave just less than $2 million to political committees from 1999 to 2004. In both cases, the money typically favored Democrats.”

More damning still is November 12, 2014 report published by New Eastern Outlook, outlining the appearance of Sara Taksler, a segment producer at The Daily Show, and Meredith Scardino, a writer at the Colbert Report at the Global Maidan Conference in New York City, where Ukrainian nationalist “freedom fighter” Volydymyr Parasyuk was given a hero’s welcome.

“Parasiuk openly brags about his close coordination with the Right Sector, another neo-Nazi organization, as well as his use of outright violence and terrorism to further his extreme aims.

“On the floor of the Ukrainian parliament, he has given speeches denouncing any plan for peace with the people of East Ukraine. He wants all negotiations to be suspended. He wants martial law.

“He dismissed all who do not accept the government imposed on them by the EU and US as ‘homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts’ as well as ‘grannies who see Stalin waving at them from the world beyond.’”

Nice guy.

The Fallout

The only heat Stewart is taking from the Politico article is coming from Fox News -- which is easily dismissed as ridiculous and hypocritical. Stewart claims the only “secret” meeting he had was with Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, before appearing on The O’Reilly Factor. Stewart has no political common ground with Ailes. Ailes isn’t the president of the United States, and Stewart met with Ailes before going on a Fox program, not his own. A little troubling in a country with a past that includes Operation Mockingbird.

Now ask yourselves -- what would most Americans, and Stewart himself, have to say if it was suddenly revealed that the host of a Russian comedic news program, who had political ties with Vladimir Putin, held secret meetings at the Kremlin, and then went on to peddle Putin’s agenda on his highly-rated nightly program?

Stewart’s defense is that the meetings were not secret.  

"It was openly listed, and I went through the normal White House entrance like everybody else, and I told my mom," Stewart said of the meetings. "Something is not a secret just because you don't know about it."

Yes, Jon. That last bit is actually the definition of a secret.

And it’s one you certainly never shared with your viewers.


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