David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun on this generation’s Chevy Chase, Jon Stewart. “Weinergate not his finest hour,” Zurawik writes:
Let’s be honest about this: Stewart has behaved badly when it comes to Weiner the past few days. In fact, he’s looked kind of confused and pathetic at times, particularly in his wrongheaded criticism of the media.The early locker-room jokes in the May 31 video don’t matter much. Nor do all the middle-school references to size. What matters to me is Stewart’s criticism of media coverage, particularly CNN’s, which he really goes after during the last 90 seconds or so of the video. Pay special attention to the way he singles out Dana Bash and John King, who I think did excellent work. You can read my analysis of CNN’s performance here.
Stewart was dead wrong in his criticism of the way the mainstream press was trying to get at the story that came to light yesterday. Bash and her producer were exemplary, in fact. But Stewart tried to ridicule their efforts.
I’d like to think that perhaps his friendship with the creepy Weiner clouded Stewart’s judgment, but he has been wrong in his media criticism before — and no one called him on it. My take on why he gets a free pass is that many media critics aren’t sure of their own values and standards. The one thing they know, though, is that they are scared to death of being ridiculed by Stewart.
And Stewart never is accountable in his media criticism, is he? When he is wrong, he goes into the tap dance of saying he’s only a comedian and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Clown nose on, clown nose off, Jim Treacher wrote last year:
The standard line among Jon Stewart fans is: “He goes after both sides equally!” No he doesn’t. And it’s okay that he doesn’t. You do yourself no favors by pretending he does.
Stewart has been playing this game for years, most notably back in 2004 when he comment-trolled my future boss, called him a dick*, and said he’s ruining America. Then, he responded to the ensuing discussion with, “You guys do know I’m on Comedy Central, right?” Stewart wants you to take his political opinions seriously, but then when you try to engage his argument, he draws back and says, “Whoa, I’m just a comedian!” Yes, you can be a comedian and yes, you can be a pundit. You can even be both over the course of the same conversation. But Stewart plays the two roles against each other to deflect criticism, and it’s dishonest.
As with Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings circling the wagons around Dan Rather after RatherGate in the fall 2004, the American public got a taste last week, with a few notable exceptions, just how much old media is willing to go to the mattresses to defend a powerful figure who’s a member of their party, to the point where it became difficult at times to tell the purportedly serious conspiracy theories from the parodies. (Check out the Freepers’ understandable initial confusion over the motives of yesterday’s Gutfeldian satire behind the lines at the Daily Kos.)
And even today, after Weiner confessed on Monday that of course he tweeted his block and tackle to the world, many in old media still have his, err, back.