Lisa de Moraes
Lisa de Moraes
The TV Column

War of words rages on between Jon Stewart, Chris Wallace

Comedy Central late-night host Jon Stewart and Chris Wallace, the Fox News Channel Sunday Beltway-show host, are now officially in a death match to see who will get in the last word.

It all started a couple of Sundays back when Stewart went on Wallace’s show as a guest. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but “to gin up ratings for their shows with incendiary conversation that will be lapped up by The Reporters Who Cover Television” is usually a good guess in these cases. Unless the answer is “to sell a new book.”

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Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites.

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The pretext, anyway, was that Stewart had promised to go on Wallace’s show — this after Wallace visited Stewart’s show last November right after the midterm elections. Why? See above.

Anyway, that was back on June 19, and they’ve been going at it ever since, for which television viewers, and the media, are grateful. Why, a kerfuffle like this can provide us with weeks of entertainment!

In a nutshell: On Monday’s “The Daily Show,” Stewart, looking like a particularly ominous cloud bank — if, that is, cloud banks could talk and had their own late-night shows — attacked Wallace’s response to what had been Stewart’s response last week to his visit to Wallace’s show.

Still looking ominous-cloud-bank-like, Stewart reminded viewers that when he was on Wallace’s show, he declared that FNC viewers were the most consistently misinformed in every poll. A political fact-checking Web site took issue with that and “said I really shouldn’t have said ‘every poll’ — it was just ‘most,’ ” Stewart noted.

Check.

Stewart reminded viewers that, on his show last week, he had accepted this correction, but followed it with a “21 Lie Salute” — instances in which the same fact-checking site had noted that Fox News Channel had gotten things wrong, Stewart said.

Check.

So when Wallace told his viewers this past Sunday that he would set the record straight about the interview, Stewart “assumed that Chris Wallace now begins the work of apologizing for Fox’s many false and misleading statements — they’ll probably do a few per show and carry us into the 2014 midterms with a clear conscience,” the dark-cloud-banky host said.

Wallace, however, did not do that.

Having delivered that setup, Stewart then proceeded to demonstrate how you tell the difference between a comic with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.

He snickered at a clip of Wallace saying Sunday that — in “setting the record straight” about Stewart’s visit the week before — Wallace had demonstrated that “we don’t go easy on Republicans.”

He ran a clip of Wallace acknowledging that he believes Stewart is an activist and an ideological partisan who does take shots at Democrats, but “mostly to maintain credibility,” Wallace said, “and you’re not as comfortable with it.”

“See the game?” Stewart rhetorically asked his chortling studio audience and viewers watching on their screen of choice.

“I make fun of conservatives or Republicans because I’m a liberal partisan idealogue. I make fun of liberals or Democrats because I want, as part of my brilliant yet cynical strategy, to maintain enough credibility, to continue making fun of conservatives and Republicans,” Stewart snarked.

“And that narrative of Conservative Victimization is the true genius of what Fox News has accomplished,” Stewart continued.

Chortling Studio Audience grew deafeningly silent.

“Any editorial judgment in news, or schools, or movies, that doesn’t favor the conservative view is elitism and is evidence of liberal bias,” Stewart said. “Whereas any editorial judgment that favors the conservative view is evidence of merely fairness and done to protect them from liberal bias.

“And, if you criticize Fox for this game, guess what that’s evidence of? How right they are about how persecuted they are. It is airtighter than an otter’s [heinie]. . . . They can’t lose. But you know what this whole ‘victim thing’ makes Fox? Well, perhaps this term a friend of mine used once to describe the current presidential administration is most apt . . . ”

Cut to a clip from September 2009 of Wallace telling FNC’s Bill O’Reilly: “They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.”

Your move, Mr. Wallace.

BET’s big audience

Nearly 8 million viewers caught the BET Awards on Sunday. That makes it the second-most-watched telecast in BET history, behind only the nearly 11 mil who watched the trophy show in ’09, when Michael Jackson was honored.

In addition to one of the greatest gaffes in trophy-show history, the 2011 BET Awards featured performances and/or appearances by LaLa Anthony, Justin Bieber, The Artist Now Known as Diddy Dirty Money, Drake, Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars and Nicki Minaj.

Stephen Hill, BET’s president of music programming and specials, is taking credit for the “confusion” over the winner of the Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award on Sunday.

First, Chris Brown was announced as the winner. Then Rihanna. Then Chris Brown again — the result of a raging debate between the teleprompter and the smartphone the presenter was carrying, in lieu of an old-fashioned envelope containing a card with the winner’s name on it.

Moves at CNN

Jessica Yellin, CNN national political correspondent, has been named the network’s chief White House correspondent.

This in the wake of last week’s news that CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, had bailed to become chief White House correspondent at Fox News Channel. Yellin joined CNN in August 2007 as a Capitol Hill correspondent after a stint at ABC News.

 
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