Stewart went beyond the usual Fox-as-an-easy-punchline one-liners and took apart the network's coverage show-by-show, repeatedly declaring Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the lineup, “Not news!”
He cited Fox News stories about a New Jersey elementary school where students were taught a song praising President Obama to make the case that the network is a “perpetual revulsion machine” where coverage and opinion feed off one another.
The bulk of the 11-and-a-half-minute monologue, aided by video clips, targeted Fox, but Stewart also lambasted the White House for jumping into the mud-wrestling match.
This hardly sounds like the stuff of political comedy – and frankly, seems more in the realm of the 24-hour cable news shout-fests that Stewart regularly lampoons. But he managed to carry out his most important task: to keep us laughing.
Reacting to Fox's Cal Thomas -- who compared White House comments portraying the network as pro-GOP to the Soviet clampdown on free media during the Cold War -- Stewart said: “So Fox News is the Voice of America, and Obama is Stalin... Oh, my God – that makes me Yakov Smirnoff! What a country!"
Stewart deftly walked a comedy tightrope. Devoting that much time to one subject on a comedy news show, no matter how intelligent the writing or pertinent the issue, risks turning off the audience and losing credibility as an equal opportunity satirist.
But Stewart focused his aim on the White House toward the end of the segment, showing a CNN interview with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who declared that “of course” Fox is biased. She seemed to back off the charge moments later when asked the same question about MSNBC, which has been accused of leaning left – spurring exasperation from Stewart.
“The administration has said very clearly… that we’re going to speak truth to power,” Jarrett told CNN.
Stewart stopped the tape. “Truth to power? You’re the White House! You’re the power. Here’s how it goes in the truth to power statement: It’s your job to (expletive)-up power. It’s Fox’ job to (expletive)-up truth.”
It’s Stewart job not to (expletive)-up the political comedy. And for 11 and a half minutes on Thursday night, he did his job well.
Still, in keeping with the spirit of Fox’s “we report, you decide” mantra, check out Stewart’s monologue below and make up your own mind.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.
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