If the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear didn’t convince you that Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart has made the leap from comedian to political force, perhaps this will.
According to Bloomberg news service, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner met with Stewart at the Daily Show host’s New York offices in April. And according to a Treasury spokesperson, it wasn’t a social visit.
“Jon Stewart is influential in America, so we took the opportunity for the two to meet and to discuss the economy,” Treasury spokesman Steve Adamske told Bloomberg’s Ian Katz in an email.
The meeting was buried in Geithner’s appointment calendar, which has been released by the US Treasury. It shows that Geithner met with Stewart on April 2. This despite the fact that “Stewart’s program has poked fun at Geithner, including a segment last year about the Treasury secretary’s trouble selling his New York home,” Katz notes.
What is not clear is what, exactly, was the purpose of the meeting, and who said what to whom. Joe Wiesenthal at Business Insider speculates that maybe Geithner was trying to exert pressure on Stewart to be more positive on the administration’s fiscal and economic policies.
“The more paranoid would note that Stewart has skewered big banks and bailouts, and that Geithner may have wanted the comedian to see the other side of the programs Geithner architected,” he writes.
Teddy Partridge at FireDogLake suggests a more complex motive for the meeting. He notes that Stewart’s older brother, Larry Leibowitz, is the chief operating officer of the New York Stock Exchange, and that the usually low-profile Leibowitz gained public attention at an economic conference held three days before Geithner visited Stewart.
“Had Geithner found himself a back-channel to the COO of the New York Stock Exchange that wouldn’t require disclosure by either party?” Partridge asks.
Unless Geithner or Stewart spill the beans, the speculation will abound. But, as financial bloggers noted today, the meeting itself shows that Stewart is being taken seriously as a political force in the US.
“Stewart long has declared that he isn’t a journalist and has he talked down his influence. Now, it is time to give up the pretense. Face it, Jon Stewart, you are a major cultural and political force in America, dude,” writes Shira Ovide at the Wall Street Journal.
“This basically ends any debate about whether Stewart is a comedian or a newsman,” Wiesenthal chimes in. “Presumably Geithner thought it important that Stewart be well-informed on aspects of policy, and Stewart felt the same way.”