Jon Stewart has long been one of Fox News’ most outspoken critics but this week he's found himself in the unusual position of defending the right-leaning cable network – or, to be more precise, standing up for its Washington, D.C., correspondent, James Rosen, whose personal emails and cellphone records were searched as part of a controversial Justice Department probe.
Thursday on “The Daily Show,” Stewart took President Obama to task for the perceived disconnect between his lofty messages and the actual practices of his administration, particularly in regard to freedom of the press and government transparency.
“They believe in freedom of the press, just not freedom of speech for those who might talk to the press,” he said regarding the crackdown on internal leaks that led to Rosen.
According to Stewart, the “full-court press” wasn’t even in service of protecting a vital national security secret, but rather the apparently self-evident fact that North Korea was responding to sanctions with further nuclear tests.
“North Korea answers everything with more nuclear [tests],” he joked. “What other big James Rosen scoops are threatening national security? Turkey the country different from Turkey the bird? Babies make terrible sous chefs? Jon Stewart is Jewish?”
But just because Stewart is sticking up for Fox News doesn't mean he's about to trade in his liberal bona-fides just yet.
Elsewhere in Thursday’s episode, he wondered why the administration was going after small-bore targets like Rosen rather than “slightly larger fish,” like the Wall Street banks who “nearly broke the world.”
This week he has also used another Obama scandal, the IRS’ targeting of tea party groups, to point out what he sees as Republican hypocrisy on the subject of profiling: If it’s not OK to subject someone to special scrutiny based on his or her political beliefs, then why is it OK to do so because of his or her racial or religious identity?
Stewart first brought up the perceived inconsistency with beloved frenemy Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday night; on Thursday it was Jason Jones’ turn to take up the cause. The correspondent sat down for an interview with conservative radio host and author Wayne Allyn Root, who claims to have been wrongly singled out by the IRS for an audit solely because of his political beliefs, yet who strenuously defends the practice of racial profiling by police and counterterrorism officials.
The latter kind of profiling “has never ruined a human being’s life in the history of the world,” Root argued.
“He was right, other than the few hundred incidences of profiling ruining people’s lives and in some cases ending them,” Jones said in a sarcastic voice-over. Then, in an attempt to get Root to see the irony of his stance, he brought in three young people – one African American, one Dominican and one Muslim -- who’d been subjected to racial profiling.
So how’d it go? Well, let’s just say what one person deems “crazy and callous,” another considers merely an “inconvenience.”