When talk turned from bias to Stewart’s political motivations, the conversation got a little more heated.
Wallace asked Stewart to explain why he thinks Fox is “a relentless agenda-driven, 24-hour news opinion propaganda delivery system,” but ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times and this newspaper are not. Wallace used the crowd sourcing technique employed by the Times and The Post to read the recently released Sarah Palin e-mails as an example of bias.
“I think their bias is towards sensationalism and laziness,” Stewart said. “I wouldn't say it's towards a liberal agenda. It's light fluff. So, it's absolutely within the wheelhouse.” He used the widespread coverage of the Anthony Weiner scandal as an example of how the “bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict and laziness.”
It was at this point that Wallace turned the spotlight on Stewart, showing the Comedy Central host clips from “The Daily Show.”
“You are not making a political comment?” Wallace asked after showing a segment where Stewart compared Sarah Palin’s bus tour commercial to one for a herpes medication. “You really think that’s a political comment?” Stewart replied. “Yes,” Wallace said.
“You’re insane,” Stewart declared. “Here is the difference between you and I — I'm a comedian first. My comedy is informed by an ideological background. There's no question about that.”
Wallace didn’t buy that Stewart is simply a comedian. “Honestly, I think you want to be a political player,” he said to Stewart, who told him he’s “dead wrong:”
You can't understand because of the world you live in that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change because that's the soup you swim in. I appreciate that. I understand that. It reminds me of, you know — you know, ideological regimes. They can't understand that there is free media in other places. Because they receive marching orders.
Like Bill O’Reilly, who had Stewart on his show to defend the rapper Common, Wallace asked the Comedy Central host if he is “disappointed” by President Obama. “Yes, I think I am,” Stewart said.
“He came in and said you can't expect to have a different result with the same people. That was, in many ways, his seminal campaign focus,” he continued. “And all I see as far as economic stewardship are the guys that got us into this mess in the first place.”
Update: PolitiFact.com has looked into Stewart’s claim that, based on polling data, people who watch Fox News are “the most consistently misinformed media viewers.” Based on polls from the Pew Research Centers and the University of Maryland’s worldpublicopinion.com, the site found Stewart’s claim to be “false.” Read the full report here.
Watch the unedited interview below: