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Report: NBC tried to hire Jon Stewart to host ‘Meet the Press’

Jon Stewart. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

NBC was so intent on hiring Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart into the “Meet the Press” hosting job vacated earlier this year that they were ready to pay him “anything,” writes reporter Gabriel Sherman in a New York Magazine scoop. The courting of Stewart, host of the ratings-killing “Daily Show,” makes sense from a business perspective, given that the comedian caters to the young audience coveted by people at big news networks.

“They were ready to back the Brinks truck up,” a source told Sherman. Chuck Todd last month debuted as the show’s new host after David Gregory’s tenure came to an awkward end tinged by low ratings.

Whatever the money on the table, it wasn’t a good enough offer for Stewart. And who can blame him? At Comedy Central, he can do comedy/commentary and occasionally lapse into journalism/commentary when he’s in the mood. He can editorialize freely, as he did to great Internet effect in denouncing Fox News coverage of the Ferguson protests. Certain Fox News commentators had resisted the framing of Ferguson as a racial issue, and Stewart just exploded. After describing an example of racial profiling experienced by a Comedy Central staffer, Stewart said, “That happens all the time, all of it. Race is there and it is a constant. You’re tired of hearing about it. Imagine how f—ing exhausting it is living it.”

Such words would never, ever fly on the set of “Meet the Press” — at least not without drawing back-channeled opposition from veteran NBC News types. If ever Stewart attempted to flex his satirical muscles on the show, he would have faced a troop of media critics coming down on him for wrecking this storied news program. How fun would that have been?