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Jon Stewart Slams Fox Viewers as Most Misinformed, But He's the Ignorant One

In his June 19 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Comedy Central's Daily Show host Jon Stewart fiercely denounced the Fox News Channel as uniquely biased, and slammed those who watch Fox News as 'the most consistently misinformed media viewers....Consistently — every poll.'

Unfortunately for Stewart, he was relying on a methodologically-flawed survey from the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) that in December trumpeted how 'those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe....' and then listed a series of supposedly false statements.

But many of the supposedly false statements listed in the study were actually just opinions that liberals don't share. For example, Fox News viewers were most likely to believe that 'most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit' and that 'the economy is getting worse.' Agreeing with those statements got you branded as 'misinformed' based on the authority of a) the Congressional Budget Office on ObamaCare's impact on the deficit, and b) the Bureau of Economic Analysis declaring that the recession officially ended in June 2009.

As anyone who closely followed the health care debate understood, the nonpartisan CBO was required to accept the budgetary assumptions of the partisan Democrats who crafted the ObamaCare bill, so it's hardly a sign of ignorance to believe the bill will drain the Treasury like every other big entitlement program in the past 75 years.

As for feeling that the economy is still getting worse, public confidence is usually one of the last indicators to turn positive after a recession. After the 1990 recession officially ended, huge majorities of the public in late 1991 and in 1992 still told pollsters that they felt the U.S. was in either a 'recession' or a 'depression' — 'misinformation' that must have been spread without the Fox News Channel, which was not established until 1996.

As for Stewart's 'every poll' claim, other surveys have used less prejudiced questions to try to test the public's knowledge, and rate Fox News viewers as among the most informed. In 2008, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked respondents to identify which party held the majority in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister of Britain, and the current Secretary of State. Unlike the PIPA study, these were genuinely fact-based questions without ideological baggage.

Just under a fifth of those polled (18%) could answer all three questions, while a third (33%) of couldn't answer any of them. But among those who exceeded the national average were viewers of FNC's Hannity & Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor — as well as viewers of Stewart's The Daily Show and Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.

At the bottom of the list: regular consumers of CBS News, Access Hollywood, and the National Enquirer.

In the same interview, Stewart also acknowledged the liberal bias of the so-called mainstream media, but he insisted that only Fox News is committed to ideological activism in the guise of news — although he allowed that the hyper-left MSNBC was 'attempting' to push a liberal agenda.

Relevant excerpts from the June 19 Fox News Sunday exchange with anchor Chris Wallace (with some of the crosstalk omitted for clarity):

CHRIS WALLACE: You love to take shots at Fox News....Over the years, you have called us — and we're going to put this on the screen because this is heavy stuff: 'A biased organization, relentlessly promoting an ideological agenda under the rubric of being a news organization....A relentless agenda-driven, 24-hour news opinion propaganda delivery system.' Where do you come up with this stuff?

STEWART: It's actually quite easy when you feel it. You got to feel it in your soul, you know?

WALLACE: Well, here's the deal. Are you willing to say the same thing about the mainstream media, about ABC, CBS, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times?

STEWART: No.

WALLACE: Would you say the same thing about them that they are — in your words — a propaganda delivery system relentlessly pushing a liberal agenda?

STEWART: No, I wouldn't say that.

WALLACE: Why not?

STEWART: MSNBC is attempting that. I think they're attempting. They've looked at your business model and they have seen the success of it. And I think they're attempting to be a more activist organization.

WALLACE: You don't think The New York Times is a liberal organization?

STEWART: No.

WALLACE: Pushing a liberal agenda?

STEWART: The New York Times, no. I think they are to a certain extent. Do I think they're relentlessly activist? No. In a purely liberal partisan way? No, I don't.

...

STEWART: I think that there is a — probably a liberal bias that exists within the media that is because of the medium in which it exists. I think that the majority of people working in it probably hold liberal viewpoints, but I don't think that they are as relentlessly activist as the conservative movement that has risen up over the last 40 years.

And that movement has decided that they have been victims of a witch hunt. And to some extent they're right. People on the right are called racists and they're called things with an ease that I am uncomfortable with — and homophobic and all those other things. And I think that that is absolutely something that they have a real right to be angry about and to feel that they have been vilified for those things. And I've been guilty of doing some of those things myself.

- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Rich Noyes on Twitter.