Jon Stewart and Tucker Carlson got into a brawl yesterday when the faux newsman began to lecture the CNN host about journalism on the cable news network's "Crossfire."
Stewart, who set the tone by asking Carlson why he and Paul Begala argue so much on the show, noted that he made a "special effort" to come on the daily program, in which hosts representing the political left and right scream at each other about this and that. Stewart said he made this special effort because he has said so publicly, so often that "Crossfire" is very, very bad.
"I felt that wasn't fair, and I should come here and tell you that it's not so much that it's bad as it's hurting America," Stewart told Carlson and Begala. "So I wanted to come here today and say . . . stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.
"You're helping the politicians and the corporations."
"By beating up on them?" Begala asked, one of the few times he got involved in yesterday's verbal melee. "You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes."
"No, you're not too tough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan -- what you call it? -- hacks!" Stewart snapped.
But Carlson had a trick or two up his sleeve, noting that on "Crossfire" they ask politicians "pointed questions," which, he said, "I want to contrast . . . with some questions you asked John Kerry recently."
At that moment, up on the screen popped some of the questions Stewart had asked the candidate when he appeared on "The Daily Show," Stewart's Comedy Central late-night program.
"If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to," Stewart sneered.
"No, no, no, here's the point," Carlson said, going into that rabid King-Charles-spaniel thing he does when he gets really worked up.
"If that's your goal," Stewart added, really enjoying himself now, "I wouldn't aim for us. I'd aim for 'Seinfeld.' That was a very good show."
Undeterred, Carlson read the lame questions Stewart had asked Kerry:
"How are you holding up?"
"Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?"
"Have you ever flip-flopped?"
"Why not ask him a real question instead of just sucking up to him?" Carlson wanted to know, but not really.
"You know, it's interesting to hear you talk about my responsibility," Stewart shot back. "I didn't realize -- and maybe this explains quite a bit -- that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity. . . . If your idea of confronting me is that I don't ask hard-hitting enough news questions, we're in bad shape, fellows."
"We're here to love you, not confront you," Carlson said, momentarily forgetting that viewers had seen the graphic listing the lame questions for Kerry that had been prepared for Stewart's visit.
"We're here to be nice," Carlson continued, disingenuously.
"I'm not. I'm here to confront you, because we need help from the media, and they're hurting us," Stewart said, and pretty nastily for a guy who last time we checked is still marketing himself as a comedian.
Believe it or not, things got worse after that.
Stewart said calling "Crossfire" a debate show is "like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition."
"You're doing theater, when you should be doing debate. . . . What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery," he snipped.
"You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?" Carlson shouted back.
Stewart noted correctly that while Carlson's show runs on the cable news network, his program's lead-in is "puppets making crank phone calls."
At this point, Carlson called his guest Kerry's "butt boy."
This interesting exchange continued until Begala jumped in, reminding the two: "We did promise naked pictures of the Supreme Court justices." It was a reference to Stewart's book "America: The Book," which has such pictures in it, and which was supposed to have been the reason Stewart appeared on "Crossfire."
"We're talking to Jon Stewart, who was just lecturing us on our moral inferiority," Carlson said when they returned from one commercial break. He then asked Stewart what he thought of "the Bill O'Reilly vibrator story."
"I'm sorry. I don't," Stewart sniffed. "Where's your moral outrage on this?"
Several uncomfortable minutes later, Carlson told Stewart: "I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion."
"You know what's interesting, though?" Stewart shot back. "You're as big a [male pride] on your show as you are on any show."
Isn't CNN lucky that FCC Chairman Michael Powell can't touch it because it's a cable network? 'Cause these days, that line alone would've cost them about a million bucks.
Aloha, "Hawaii." Bye-bye, "Benefactor."
The November sweeps are less than three weeks away. Time to scrap those struggling series!
NBC has shelved its Wednesday cop drama "Hawaii," effective immediately.
And ABC has slashed the remaining four episodes of its Monday reality series "The Benefactor"; they're being edited into two episodes to put viewers out of their misery as soon as possible while not infuriating the few who still care who wins this competition. The finale will air Oct. 25, getting the show off the lineup before the start of the November ratings sweeps.
"LAX," starring Heather Locklear as the head of the runways at Los Angeles International Airport, is going to replace "Hawaii" on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., leading into "The West Wing." Replacing "LAX" eventually on Mondays at 10 p.m. will be "The 24 Million Dollar Hoax," about a contestant who fools his family into thinking he has won the lottery in order to win a prize that's no doubt worth much less than $24 million.