On last night’s The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart interviewed Chris Wallace of Fox News. The resulting veneration was cringe-worthy and wholly undeserved.
Stewart repeatedly praised Wallace as the lone representative of journalistic principle on Fox News, calling him their “news guy.”. This makes me wonder if Stewart has actually ever seen Wallace in action. If he had he would be familiar with how Wallace slants his reporting and cushions his interview subjects with praise, softballs, and leading questions, i.e.:
- Asking the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes “is it unfair to say that this is a president whose heart doesn’t seem to be into winning the war on terror?”
- Asking Rush Limbaugh what Obama has done TO the country.
- Awarding ACORN pimp, James O’Keefe, the “Power Player of the Week.”
- Calling Democrats “damn fools” for declining to appear on Fox News.
- Admitting that he “generally agrees” with Sean Hannity.
- Jumping to the defense of George W. Bush after director Ron Howard suggested comparisons to Richard Nixon.
- Declaring Sarah Palin to be a “new star in the political galaxy.”
- Asking George Bush if he was “puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting [the] rights of people who want to kill us.”
- In a criticism of Democratic health care plans, making the absurd observation that “people don’t even contemplate end of life until they’re in an irreversible coma.”
To be sure, Stewart got in a couple moments of clarity. For instance, when he noted that Wallace was hesitant to ask challenging questions of fellow Fox Newser Sarah Palin. Stewart was also on target when he congratulated Wallace and Fox News for “taking back control of the House of Representatives,” clearly associating the goals of Fox News with those of the GOP. Wallace assumed the tribute was for besting MSNBC and CNN in the ratings (all Foxies care more about ratings than reporting). However, Stewart properly corrected him. And then there was the exchange wherein Stewart zinged Wallace by saying…
Stewart: You have a very clear narrative.
Wallace: You mean the truth?
Stewart: [Laughing] No. You know which party you want to elect.
But overall this interview affirmed my long-held criticism that interviewing is not Stewart’s strong point. He often seems more focused on fawning over his guests than challenging them. That’s tolerable when he’s interviewing Hugh Grant about his next romantic comedy, but with political guests he should be at least as provocative as he is in the show’s earlier “funny” segments.
Stewart’s Daily Show is still the funniest and most biting satire on TV. But he should never let a guest get away with the sort of spin for which they would be mocked were they to have done it on another program. And the ingratiating tone he took with Wallace, who is as overtly partisan as the rest of the Fox roster, was a failure from both an informative and a humorous perspective.