It's Time for Jon Stewart to Stop Hurting America

Like most writers, I dream of writing a bestseller. In recent days, there's been an added dimension to this dream. I'd like the book to be popular enough to merit an appearance on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. When he asks me a question, I want to take the opportunity to tell him exactly what I think of his show and tell him to stop hurting America.

This stunt would be the same one that Stewart pulled in 2004, when he was given the opportunity to appear on CNN's Crossfire to promote his book and instead decided to rip the show and its hosts for "hurting America" with its sharp partisan banter, which Stewart didn't even view as real debate.

Stewart fans credit this moment with causing the cancellation of Crossfire the following year. In reality, the show had been tanking in the post-Pat Buchanan era and had a declining viewing audience. Contrary to Stewart's self-righteous rant, the show couldn't hurt Rhode Island, let alone the whole country. But never mind, it was Stewart's moment to shine, even if it was the equivalent of dressing down Steve Urkel during the last season of Family Matters.

Stewart is a talented comedian. He skewers politicians and the media with precision. Along with Stephen Colbert, Stewart has raised mocking politicians to a whole new level. However, The Daily Show is not mere comedy. While the show argues that it's not a significant news source for Americans, studies tell another story. Pew Research found that two percent of Americans -- and six percent of young people -- identified Stewart as their favorite journalist. While studies also indicate he's not his viewers' only source of news, it's clear many in Stewart's audience view him as a source of news. This is where the situation gets sticky.

The Daily Show is an exercise in creative editing in the style of Michael Moore. Putting clips together to make a point or a joke doesn't give an accurate impression of reality. Unlike The Onion or Saturday Night Live's obviously satirical "Weekend Update," Stewart gives the impression that he is making fun of what has actually happened rather than embellishing reality to create humor or outrage.

For examples of creative editing, one need look no further than the interview with CNBC stock analyst Jim Cramer. The network aired part of the interview with Stewart and then placed the full, unedited exchange on its website, thus putting The Daily Show's editing methods on display.

The video shows that The Daily Show heavily cut out information that would have made Cramer a more sympathetic figure to Stewart's liberal audience, including:

  • Cramer did not agree with Rick Santelli and considers people who have stayed in their homes with high mortgage payments by holding down multiple jobs  "fighters" not "losers." The studio audience cheered Cramer's statement.
  • Cramer voted for President Obama. His only concern with Obama's programs is that the president is moving on his agenda items too quickly. He thinks America needs to "win the war on unemployment" before passing programs that scare CEOs to death.
  • Cramer has suggested other earnings vehicles to people, including CDs, rather than stocks during the recent downturn.