Jon Stewart is involved in a verbal smackdown with Fox News, if you haven’t heard. On Sunday, the Comedy Central host (we loved you in “Elmopalooza,” Jon!) appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace. The pair had a lengthy and interesting discussion about journalism in general and Fox News in particular.
Before it was over, Mr. Stewart accused Mr. Wallace of fronting for a right-wing propaganda machine, and Wallace accused Stewart of pushing liberalism while pretending to be a simple comedian. Or something like that.
Monday was Day 2 of this War of the Well-Coiffed, as the skirmish continued on Stewart’s “Daily Show.” Who’s winning so far?
We’ll get to that in a moment. First, we’d like to point out that by framing this story as a confrontation between two parties, we’re confirming everything Stewart said about the non-Fox mainstream media.
His larger point was that the MSM is biased toward conflict and sensationalism, not liberalism. He noted that CNN, Fox, and MSNBC all covered the beginning of a news conference last week by House minority leader Nancy Pelosi – and then all cut away when it turned out she wanted to talk about the economy instead of the Twitter-driven resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Biased toward conflict? Those are fighting words! OK, OK, maybe conflict is journalists' first impulse – “White House, Congress in budget clash.” But how else can we make the news understandable? How else can we couch it in storytelling terms that average people can understand? Help us help ourselves, Jon.
Yet Stewart himself seems to be continuing to fight. On his “Daily Show” Monday, he complained that Fox edited his interview for on-air broadcast in a manner that eliminated what he felt was a telling admission by Wallace.
The moment in question is when Wallace says that NBC and other networks are biased and “we tell the other side of the story.”
“The other side of the story!” a delighted-appearing Stewart told his studio audience while rehashing that moment. “We don’t tell both sides. We tell one side, the other side, because as you know, news only comes in two sides.”
Was that a telling admission? You can decide for yourself. It does appear to be an inharmonious verbosity on Wallace’s part, but should you really read a lot into a couple of words?
Also, we’ll note that the fact-checking organization PolitiFact rated as “false” Stewart’s assertion that Fox News viewers have been proved to be the most misinformed of all media viewers. The story is a more complicated than that.
Shall we call it a draw, with the real winners being the two TV channels, which are looking to drive ratings? Whatever Stewart thinks of Fox, he’s providing a link to the interview from his own website, we’ll note.
Also, Stewart agreed to come back on "Fox News Sunday" and talk to Wallace again sometime.
“We validate [parking],” promised Wallace.
“Still?” said Stewart. “You’re a good man.”