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Jon Stewart, Again in the Crossfire

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, October 19, 2004; Page C07

The left and the right on CNN's "Crossfire" finally have found something they can come together on.

Both sides hate "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart.

Round 2 of "Crossfire" vs. Jon Stewart:

On Friday, you'll recall, the Comedy Central late-night star appeared on CNN's afternoon screamfest, ostensibly to promote "America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction."

Instead, to the surprise of hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, Stewart blasted the show and the two men personally, calling them "partisan hacks" who "have a responsibility to the public discourse" but "fail miserably."

Carlson, who also has a public policy show on PBS, responded by calling Stewart the personal "butt boy" of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. (Note to self: Call PBS chief Pat Mitchell to chat.)

Stewart, not to be outdone, called Carlson a part of the anatomy unique to men.

By yesterday afternoon, both sides had had three days to figure out how to spin it, and damage control began in earnest.

At the end of "Crossfire," Robert Novak on the right and James Carville on the left said they'd received loads of comments from viewers about the Friday telecast. They read two of the messages.

The first, from Toronto, said Stewart's appearance confirmed his suspicions: "Jon Stewart is the most overrated, overhyped comedian in the world today."

The second viewer comment -- because "Crossfire" is about presenting both sides of an issue -- thanked "Crossfire" for "having the guts" to let someone like Stewart speak.

After that, Novak did what the show is supposed to do: present opposing points of view.

"Let me say something about Jon Stewart. I don't think he's funny. And I know he's uninformed," Novak said, peering meaningfully at the audience.

"I think he's funny," said Carville. "I just think he's a pompous ass."

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