Expect to feel the wrath of Jon Stewart if you trash one of his fellow Comedy Central hosts.
Many pundits and politicians — most of them conservative — criticized Stephen Colbert for testifying in character Friday before a House immigration subcommittee after being invited by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Stewart came to Colbert’s defense Monday.
Lofgren asked Colbert to tell the subcommittee about his experience working for a day in a job typically done by undocumented workers.
Most of the committee’s questions were directed at the more serious witnesses, but Colbert did get in a few laugh lines, including, “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican, sliced by a Guatemalan, served by a Colombian at a spa while a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.”
In his final chance to comment, however, Colbert briefly broke character to explain that he had gotten involved in the issue of migrant farmworkers because “I like talking about people who don’t have any power. … ‘Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers.’ … Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”
Following the hearing, Republicans pounced on Democrats for allowing the testimony.
“It’s a serious issue,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). “This is a broken system and they call in Colbert as the first guy?”
“I think it’s an insult to the time and an insult to the intelligence of the American people that Congress is conducting themselves in this fashion,” grumbled Steve King (R-IA).
Even some Democrats complained. “I think it was an embarrassment to Mr. Colbert more than the House,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
But one conservative pundit got Stewart’s attention. “Any comic who says I’m here to speak for people that have no voice is no longer a comic but a pompous jerk,” Tucker Carlson said on Fox News the evening following Colbert’s testimony.
“Yes, pompous jerk as opposed to an arrogant douche who apparently gets to decide who is and is not a comic,” Stewart shot back.
Stewart’s dislike for Carlson was first apparent when he appeared on CNN’s Crossfire in 2004. Ars Technica noted:
Yesterday Stewart made his case not on the Daily Show, but instead on CNN’s Crossfire (transcript here | streaming video here). Crossfire is a partisan show that pits two sides against each other. Stewart came on the show, and it’s rather clear that Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala were expecting a jovial Stewart to trade barbs with them, but that’s not what happened. From the beginning of the discussion, Stewart took aim at Crossfire and other media shows, saying (at first with a smile) that they “hurt America” by making politicians’ lives easier by failing to “hold their feet to the fire.” The gist of Stewart’s complaint was that shows that were purportedly “hard” and “cutting” were really only theatrical performances of talking points and sensationalism—an accusation made eerily true when Carlson tried to ask an irrelevant and stupid question about Bill O’Reilly’s current sex scandal. Carlson’s rejoinder amounted to nothing more than asking why Stewart himself didn’t ask the likes of John Kerry tougher questions, at which point Stewart noted, “If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you’re more than welcome to.”
“Tucker and I can talk like this because we already have a visceral negative reaction to each other. Not an ounce of friendship or respect between us. Truly one of the only people in the world I feel that way about,” explained Stewart Monday.
This video is from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, broadcast Sept. 27, 2010.