Jon Stewart Gets Liberal Lashing for ‘Daily Show’ Roast of Biden

One-time fans who perhaps remember comedian Jon Stewart only taking satirical swipes at conservatives while host of The Daily Show were shocked and aggrieved when he returned to host the program after almost nine years on Monday to take aim at President Joe Biden.

During an “Indecision 2024” segment that anchored the first half of the show, Stewart aired exasperation over Donald Trump and Biden being the oldest-ever candidates for president, breaking a record they themselves set in the 2020 election. (In his usual self-deprecating style, he also took a moment to lament his own age and appearance.) The monologue made room for ridicule of Trump’s most unhinged comments but did not spare his incumbent Democratic opponent, who has lately faced intense questioning on his mental acuity. At one point, Stewart showed Biden — at a press conference to address a Justice Department probe that characterized him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” — mixing up the countries of Mexico and Egypt.

Stewart’s takeaway was that both men were obliged prove their fitness for office. “What’s crazy is thinking that we’re the ones, as voters, who must silence concerns and criticisms,” he said. “It is the candidates’ job to assuage concerns, not the voters’ job not to mention them.” He also said that the danger posed by another Trump term doesn’t excuse Biden from scrutiny but “actually makes him more subject to scrutiny.”

To leftists and progressives fed up with Biden, particularly his commitment to Israel as it continues to bomb civilians in Gaza, the assessment was not just fair — it was obvious. But more centrist Democrats, including those most likely to have appended “Blue Wave” and “Resistance” labels to their social media accounts in the Trump years, were appalled at what they saw as a betrayal by one of their own.

Chis D. Jackson, an election commissioner in Tennessee who describes himself as “one of the most effective digital advocates of President Joe Biden and his administration,” summed up the mood in this camp: “Wow,” he tweeted. “So you basically say because Biden is old, he is basically as bad as Trump. Why th[e] F do we never learn in this country?” Kaivan Shroff, Democratic commentator and press secretary for the political nonprofit Dream for America, took a shot at Stewart, claiming that although he’s 20 years younger than Biden, the two men “look the same age.” One Biden supporter raged that Stewart, who was commended by the president in 2022 for his advocacy on behalf of veterans, had dared to “pay him back” with this harsh analysis. “I’ll never forgive you,” he concluded.

Liberal media figures were among those unamused by Stewart’s comeback episode. Independent journalist Aaron Rupar, for example, complained that his material was “basically the New York Times op-ed page in TV form,” adding, “both sides are not in fact equally bad!” Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann called Stewart a “bothsidesist fraud” and hoped that the talk show host would take another nine-year hiatus from the Daily Show. The hosts of daytime talk show The View faulted the episode for “ageism.” And Bill Palmer of the anti-Trump website Palmer Report — not exactly known for wholly accurate coverage — denounced Stewart’s “false equivalence horse crap,” vowing not to watch the show any more.

Literary icon Joyce Carol Oates, known for her unfiltered Twitter takes, was likewise unimpressed with Stewart’s performance at the Daily Show desk, calling it “surprisingly unoriginal” in its focus on the presidential candidates’ age: “‘Both sides identical: too old,’ she tweeted, asking, “this is funny or helpful — exactly how?”

Some conservative viewers, on the other hand, tended to see Stewart’s critique as a pleasant surprise — even apart from the bickering it caused in Democratic circles. “Balance and humor return!” declared Elon Musk, who since acquiring Twitter in 2022 has been stewing in the far-right misinformation and racist conspiracy theories that now run rampant on the barely moderated platform.

Which is not to suggest that Stewart had anything favorable to say about Trump. Throughout the episode, the host referenced the former president’s many criminal indictments, multiple civil rulings affirming that he committed sexual assault, and attempts to undermine the democratic process — while noting Biden had none of these issues as a candidate. The Daily Show‘s writers also appeared to anticipate the backlash to a perceived “both sides” approach in a riff where correspondent Jordan Klepper roasted Stewart as a relic of the 1990s whose snarky attacks on either side of the political establishment made him an out-of-touch hack. (Klepper quickly adopted a friendlier tone when Stewart reminded him that he and the rest of the news team would be handling hosting duties for most of the election cycle, with Stewart appearing just on Mondays.)

All in all, it seemed that nobody incensed by Stewart’s comments on Biden recalled his history of jabbing at Democratic leaders over the years, from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Al Gore to Barack Obama. In his long absence from the flagship Comedy Central talk show, it’s possible that part of his audience chose to remember him more as a prime hater of President George W. Bush — especially during the Iraq War — or a true-blue counterweight to the rabid Fox News-style neoconservatism lampooned in The Colbert Report.

The trouble for Stewart’s erstwhile liberal fans is that he’s still not beholden to party orthodoxy, and will be on TV week in, week out, until November. It’s already clear that his skewering Trump as incoherent, clownish and dangerously unsuited to the highest office in the land is not enough to placate this voting bloc, which would do well to realize that Stewart’s job has never been to favor, endorse, or champion a particular candidate: he’s there now to vent a collective frustration with a pair of unpopular politicians and attack the system that has once again put them forward as our two best options. If that offends, it might be worth reminding yourself: don’t shoot the messenger.



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