Fox News and The Daily Show, particularly The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, were made for each other. They’re like Kennedy v. Nixon, Bush v. Gore – and hell, let’s go even further – Angie v. Jen. That any of these pairs are indeed feuding at any given time is something we will never know for sure. What we do know is there have been many moments in time where they have strongly disagreed on what is correct and proper policy and/or behavior.
And then there’s this week’s Republican Debates with Donald Trump – which should really be reclassified as this season’s debut of The Apprentice. The new arc will clearly be pitting Mr. Trump against…um, everyone, but with a particular emphasis on uppity women. The latter is probably an oxymoron in Mr. Trump’s mind since he tends to see women – nee people, really – in two categories: those who agree with him and those who dare to speak their minds and disagree with him. Or pose direct questions that challenge him on what he says. Okay, that’s three categories. Whatever.
Mr. Stewart was an expert on challenging and certainly it’s more fun to write about him, especially if you’re a snide liberal like me. Still, it’s near impossible to do without boring your audience to death because you can never be as witty as he was in his 16-year stint as host of The Daily Show – a job that he voluntarily ended this past Thursday night. Coincidentally, that was the same night as the launch of The Republican Apprentice (Note: I think that’s a better name for those debates, don’t you?) and the national breakout of another new light-haired star of the small screen (Note #2 – And a woman, no less!) who dared to challenge the bashful billionaire to the center stage of the public square – Fox News’ own Megyn Kelly.
I’ve written before about endings and beginnings but if there was ever a Ying and Yang moment in the pop culture landscape it was the almost simultaneous departure of Mr. Stewart from our daily lives (for the time being) with the international skewering of America’s #1 new Bloviator-in-Chief (that would be Mr. Trump) by a surprising source, albeit one in a dress. Or, if you prefer – from the real press. Well, sort of. True, she had a much more direct and less playful style than Mr. Stewart but as hundreds of media outlets have already detailed we all knew that he would be irreplaceable. Nevertheless, like Mr. Stewart she punctured his pomposity with countless well-placed pricks – namely his own words that is – and hung him with them. It was both uncomfortable and sort of funny, though with Mr. Stewart it would have been funny and sort of uncomfortable. But again – different person, different style.
In case you didn’t catch the festivities, Ms. Kelly’s first question out of the gate to Mr. Trump – who at the time of the debate was the runaway favorite among Republican voters in the polls at nearly 25% – was about his treatment of women. Noting he had previously referred to women as fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals – to which he instantly retorted, Only Rosie O’Donnell!, to cheers from the live audience, she wondered if he thought this was the temperament of a man who should be president. He responded the country’s big problem was political correctness and that if Ms. Kelly (and by inference other women) didn’t understand things said for fun and kidding around he was sorry for her. Actually, let’s be really specific here and print exactly what he said:
Megyn, if you don’t like it I’m sorry – I’ve been very nice to you although I could probably not be based on the way you’ve treated me but I wouldn’t do that.
Of course, Mr. Trump did do exactly that in an interview several days later when, speaking of Ms. Kelly during the debate, he said, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever, not so subtly implying that perhaps the real explanation for her demeanor and questioning during those two hours was that she was hormonal.
Mr. Stewart has had a decade and a half of field days with this kind of stuff. We’re talking about idiotic, wrong-headed or just plain offensive comments from public figures, politicians, corporations and the media in general where, in an actual fun and kidding around way he takes them apart intellectually. Of course, being a comedian and not an aspirant to political office, or even a reporter, he then has the carte blanche to end his diatribe against them by doing things like leading a gospel choir in a rousing song and dance chorus of Go F-K YOURSELF (Note: One of my favorite bits ever, but well, I’m not running for political office either). And hey, that’s just one of the many perks of his kind of success – speaking his mind – right?
Interestingly enough, that particular bit was first done towards a Fox News commentator and then the media in general. As Mr. Stewart noted in a very strong summation of his POV during his final show, his main beef over the years has always been with the BULLSH-T in the world these days. Warning us all not to be seduced by the cunning acumen with which these lies are told to us daily he offered up several cogent examples as cautionary tales, including this one:
Whenever something’s been titled freedom, family, fairness, health, America, take a good long sniff, because chances are it has been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bull – (well, you know the rest).
He then concluded with one very simple overarching piece of advice for us all:
This quite literally brings me back to Fox News, Mr. Trump and Ms. Kelly.
I, for one, don’t give them too much credit. Though clearly I can’t really know their motivations. The whole idea that this network has taken up the high road of journalistic integrity by suddenly confronting the Republican candidates they throw softball questions to and tout nightly with the really tough questions they won’t answer from anyone else – from Megyn Kelly on down – seems at best a misguided altruistic view of this organization’s intentions in light of their past actions and reporting history and at worst, to paraphrase Mr. Stewart, a gargantually huge mountain of BULLSH-T. Remember, Ms. Kelly is the same reporter who eighteen months ago, near the top of a news segment on holiday multiculturalism, turned point blank to the camera and in a very serious tone tried to reassure the kids watching that despite anything that might have been said elsewhere the undisputed fact is that Santa just is White.
In the case of the Fox strategy for our debut episode of the aforementioned The Republican Apprentice, what seems a more likely scenario is: terrified Mr. Trump’s front-runner status among the 16 candidates was a wild card that would hand the 2016 presidency to Hillary Clinton, Roger Ailes (Fox News creator-in-chief) and any number of his monied consultants (e.g. the multi-billionaire Koch brothers) decided to sabotage the barking billionaire at his own game by using occasional bits of hard-hitting, objective real journalism to challenge each candidate with the most pointed, difficult questions imaginable in an effort to blow up their engrained pecking order and thus create a new one. Most naturally, then, the toughest questions were aimed at their leader – or more precisely the most colorful bird of the bunch – the one who could scarcely be bloodied with just one peck to his very large, and quite luxuriously coiffed (um, you choose the adjective) head.
True, I don’t have evidence to prove this for sure and since that is the argument Fox News commentators have for years used against enacting any type of real environmental legislation against global warning, take that for what you will. Not to mention, I heard yesterday this theory is also being endorsed by Rush Limbaugh, who seems to support much of Mr. Trump’s worldview, particularly as it pertains to women. Still, who better to know the real motivations at Fox than he? Him? Whatever. Grammatical correctness is the next big problem in America, right?
Perhaps that was just the right ironic thought with which to end this piece. But in a tribute to Jon Stewart – who really did change our world just a bit for the better with his art – let’s conclude the way he often chose to close out his show – with a Zen moment. And since I can’t improve on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – the one he used for his finale – it seems only fitting that for the last foreseeable time we pilfer our Zen from him.
Ohmmmmmmmm. Or in anticipation of the next episode of The Republican Apprentice – Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.