Jon Stewart on CNN: Fox News 'Wrong,' a 'Political Organization'

On Wednesday's Larry King Live on CNN, liberal comedian Jon Stewart bashed Fox News, labeling their "fair and balanced" slogan a "complete lie." Stewart also stated that he thought the network was "wrong" and that "they've built... [a] really effective political organization," not a news organization. The comedian also lamented how Democrats have "faced a relentless campaign of hyperbole that they are tyrannical socialists" [audio available here].

Stewart appeared for the entire hour on King's program. Forty minutes in, the CNN host asked his guest, "What do you make of Fox?" The comedian, who earlier promoted his upcoming supposedly moderate "Rally to Restore Sanity," initially gave a mostly complimentary reply, though included his "wrong" label of the network, but continued with some criticism on CNN:

STEWART: I think brilliantly authoritative. They know what they're doing. People would take well to heed how tenacious they are- how bold they are. They express editorial authority. I think they're wrong. But I appreciate that they're trying and- you know, I don't think it's a right and left thing. I don't think that's what's going to be important. I think CNN has an opportunity to be a real arbiter. But being a real arbiter means taking a stand, not just having people on you're on- you know, you're on the left, you're on the right. That's like having people on in the cola wars. You're from Pepsi. You're from Coke. What do you think? I think we taste great. I think we taste great. That's all the time we have (King laughs)- both terrific points of view, you know? It's about being authoritative, about earning credibility. And CNN, more than anybody, has the infrastructure to be able to accomplish that, and instead, they make a holographic Jessica Yellin and they just make her come up as a holograph on election night. Do you remember that?

Stewart, in calling for CNN to be a "real arbiter" by "taking a stand," seems to be hinting that the network should be more overtly liberal, in the model of their competitor MSNBC. That might not, however, lead them to "being authoritative" or "earning credibility."

King followed-up by continuing his line of questioning on Fox News, though getting his competitor's "fair and balanced" slogan slightly wrong in the process. This is where Stewart further unleashed on the network:


KING: But Fox, you think they're fair and honest in reporting?

STEWART: What!? No! God no.

KING: But that's their motto.

STEWART: What? That's their motto?

KING: Yes.

STEWART: Well, that's a complete lie.

KING: Okay.

STEWART: No, I think they're tenacious. I think they are confident, and they are showing the model of how to build an organization that believes in something. I think what they believe- I think it is wrong-headed for a news organization. I think they've built an incredible political organization- really effective political organization.

KING: So it's a political organization?

STEWART: Yes, that's right.

Earlier, just before the bottom of the 9 pm Eastern hour, King asked Stewart about Sharron Angle. The liberal bashed the Nevada Republican, but also broadened his comedic bashing to both Republicans and Democrats, though he clearly sympathized more with the Democrats:

STEWART: I think Sharron Angle is an example of just how desperate people must be to remove Democrats from office, that they would listen to her positions and the things that she says and go- (snaps fingers) that's for me. (King laughs) I think that's got more to do with them going- Harry Reid, seriously dude?

KING: Where did Harry- he's the top Democrat in the Senate.

STEWART: Yes (laughs), he is.

KING: He got a health bill passed.

STEWART: Yeah, but I think the issue is not that- they seem to feel that legislative accomplishment in and of itself is reason for re-election. I think a lot of people feel like they are layering hit or miss reforms on top of an infrastructure that is somewhat corroded. I think people felt like this was an opportunity to root out years of rust and degradation in a system, not just layer it with all kinds of other-

KING: They were supposed to do it in two years?

STEWART: They were not supposed to do it in two years. But I think, within two years, they could have laid out an illuminating path that showed that they were on a road to understanding what the issues were that people were concerned about. Also, to be fair, they have faced a relentless campaign of hyperbole that they are tyrannical socialists bent on the homosexualization of the gayness of turning this country into gay-Germany.

KING: While being Muslim.

STEWART: While being Muslim. (King laughs) So, again- but with that stated, if they had given people I think a much clearer impression of what was important to them and what they thought the real issues were, rather than just this kind of- there's an incoherence to what they say. I always say- you know, with Republicans, you never- they never have to prove that they love this country. Democrats always seem to have to prove to America that they love America. Republicans love America- they just seem to hate about 50 percent of the people who live in it. (King laughs) Democrats- you know, for their thing, it's always they love this country- they just somehow wish it were a different country. (King laughs) You know, Democrats are always like- you know, America's the greatest country in the world. Have you seen Finland's health care system? (King laughs) You get back rubs at work. You're surrounded by sandwiches.

Immediately before King asked Stewart for his views on Fox News, he asked about former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez's firing, which partially involved Sanchez labeling the comedian a "bigot." Stewart actually defended his accuser, even while continuing to make fun of the former anchor:

KING: They're [people on Twitter] asking this: what you thought about CNN, us, firing Rick Sanchez after he called you a bigot?...

STEWART: Should they have fired him for that? No.

KING: You think they made a mistake?

STEWART: Oh! With the crap you guys have put on over the last ten years? (King laughs) What, are you kidding me? Fire somebody if you don't think they're doing a good job as a news person. This whole idea that people- you know, they fired a woman for Tweeting something on her thing on her blog. They fired Sanchez for saying what he said. I think it's absolute insanity. I think that this idea that people have to be held to account for everything that comes out of their mouths, as far as their livelihoods is concerned- does he do a good job? Were you pleased with his job, or was it an excuse to- you know, to get rid of him, in a manner?

KING: What did you think of the job he was doing?

STEWART: He's a ham. I mean, I wasn't crazy about the show. Do you think I want to see a newsman get tased and then get into a car and drive it into a river? It would be like, this is how you get out. What? What are you doing? But-

KING: Were you not hurt by him calling you that? Personally hurt?

STEWART: No, I was not personally hurt by him calling me a bigot. I make jokes about people for a living. If that's the least- you should hear what people call me when I'm walking home. (King laughs) You have no idea the vitriol that comes my way on a daily basis. Bigot- I almost wanted to hug him and go, really, you think? (King laughs) That nice?

KING: Why, frankly- a show- why do you pick on-

STEWART: You know- and again- you know, the idea that they would have fired him for calling me a bigot. I wish I- you know, I think they- if that's the reason, hire him back tomorrow, because I- you know, my feeling is, when he said- you know, there was a- the thought that he had said that Jews control the media and that maybe that would have ruffled some feathers, that they felt like that was-

KING: Maybe that was the reason.

STEWART: Okay, but even that- I'm sorry, that is a nasty thing to say. I don't think he actually means that. But I don't think that's a fireable offense. Unless it's- you know, yeah, if you criticize your bosses sometimes. But even that-

Speaking of Sanchez, Stewart should take comfort in how the two of them agree on Fox News.

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.