Jon Stewart's Feud With Fox News Heating Up


Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, has been not-so-quietly waging war with Fox News for years -- and recently he's been turning up the heat. His most recent battle with the News Corp. (NWS)-owned network hinged on an airing of Fox & Friends, which two weeks ago asked (more than once) whether the crescent-moon shaped logo that the White House used during a nuclear security summit was some sort of Islamic image.

As the New York Times recently reported, Stewart had his staff call the White House to ask just that, and lo and behold, discovered that there were no Islamic ties after all. In fact, the White House told the Daily Show staffers that the image was based on the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom. Of course, Stewart proudly reported this news on his show on April 14.

On the next evening's broadcast, Stewart showed a montage of Fox news hosts and commentators, including conservative media analyst Bernard Goldberg, making wide-reaching generalizations about liberals. In particular, Stewart zeroed in on Goldberg, a Fox News contributor, calling him a hypocrite for complaining that Tea Party members are being stereotyped. Then, Stewart told Fox News to go f*** itself.

Fox News didn't take Stewart's jabs lying down. On the O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly referred to Stewart as a "devoted Fox News critic." He also said Stewart was a "key component of left-wing TV" because he holds so much credibility among younger Americans. Goldberg replied to Stewart by accusing him of giving a "lap dance" to New York Times columnist Frank Rich, a frequent GOP critic, when he was on his show.

"You practically had your tongue down his throat," Goldberg said on the program as if he were speaking with Stewart.

Fox declined to comment on this story. A spokesman for Comedy Central did not return calls by press time.

This type of sparring seems to meet the approval of Comedy Central's parent company Viacom (VIA), which recently extended Stewart's contract until 2013. Evidently, the Stewart-Fox feud isn't hurting the media giant's bottom line. According to research firm SNL Kagan, revenue for Comedy Central will hit $698.4 million in 2011, up almost 10% from $635.7 million in 2009. This year's figure is expected to be $663.2 million, up 4% from $635.7 million in 2009. Shares of New York-based Viacom, controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone, have nearly doubled over the past year. When Viacom reports earnings April 29, Conservative Wall Street will have no problems with liberal Stewart. He delivers results and that's all that matters.

Stewart's place in the pop culture zeitgeist has never been stronger. He has eclipsed MSNBC's Keith Olberman as the left's leading Fox basher. (Yet, ever the equal opportunity offender, Stewart has also blasted the Countdown with Keith Olbermann host for hyperbolic criticism of newly-elected Republican Senator Scott Brown. Olbermann on a subsequent broadcast conceded that Stewart had been right.) His critiques of the mainstream media such as his brilliant take down of Jim Cramer last year are required reading for serious students of journalism. And, in some unfortunate instances, he is a more serious news man than people who earn a living at the profession.

"Comedians do social commentary through comedy. That's how it's worked for thousands of years, " Stewart said on his show last week. "I have not moved out of the comedian's box into the news box. The news box is moving towards me."