Jon Stewart on Obama’s Letter to Iran: ‘I Don’t Know Why We Wouldn’t Reach Out’

Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show and director of Rosewater, said he does not know any reason for President Obama not to continue reaching out to the Iranian government for help in fighting ISIS.

Stewart was asked if he agrees with President Obama writing a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Obama reportedly told Khamenei that any cooperation from the Iranians in fighting the terrorist group ISIS would be tied to a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

“Well, I don’t know why we wouldn’t reach out to whoever we could reach out to,” Stewart told PJ Media after the premiere of his film Rosewater, about Maziar Bahari, a journalist held captive and interrogated in Iran for more than 100 days.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney recently said writing the letter was an “enormous error” that legitimizes the Iranian regime.

“Not only do we legitimize that nation and its leadership but also that nation and its leadership is in part responsible to a degree for the elevation of ISIS, for the creation of ISIS,” Romney said. “The leadership of Iran in supporting Assad and arming Assad, that allows Assad to be able to push back against those early revolutionaries and that ultimately led to the rise of ISIS.”

In a discussion following the screening of Rosewater, Stewart said he hopes the movie shows “evil is a rare element but ignorance is epidemic.”

“We have a tendency to want to paint things one-dimensionally as evil and good. Journalism is the antidote to ignorance and information is the antidote to ignorance and the more that can vaccinate the world, the more hopeful it becomes and the more we believe evil is somehow always out there and irreparable is probably when we lose more hope,” he said. “So, I see it [the film] as very optimistic and hopefully a move toward that.”

Stewart also said young people should not be getting their news directly from The Daily Show.

“It wouldn’t make a lot of sense, what we do, without a basis,” he said, explaining that he has to watch the news to gather the content of his show.

“For all the handwringing about a younger generation that has been lost, their ability to synthesize information is certainly far more sophisticated than I was at that age,” he added.

Stewart rejected the notion that young people are not engaged in current events as much as past generations.

“Everybody’s got this nostalgic view of how the country used to work as informed citizens. We’ve been idiots for a very long time. On our hairdryers it says, ‘don’t use this in the bathtub.’ It’s not as though we were a society of nuclear physicists that suddenly pop music and the Internet turned into blithering idiots,” he said. “I reject this idea that we are in a new age of incoherence. I think there is more information out there. It needs to be contextualized.”

Since journalists are trying to keep up with a 24-hour news cycle where things are not always happening, Stewart said the media creates a false urgency and forgets to “contextualize” all the information, which contributes to a “sense of despair and unnerving nature” of what’s happening around the world.

Rosewater opens in theaters on November 14.