Last week, CNN’s new chief, Jonathan Klein, axed Crossfire—the weekly “debate” show in which politics is reduced to shouted soundbites. In spiking the program, Klein made reference to Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

In an Oct. 15 appearance on Crossfire, Stewart told hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala that their “partisan hackery…is hurting America.” An excerpt from Stewart’s appearance appears below.

TUCKER CARLSON: Well, he’s been called the most trusted name in fake news. Next, we’re joined by Jon Stewart for his one-of-a-kind take on politics, the press and America.

PAUL BEGALA: Welcome back to Crossfire.

Jon STEWART: Thank you very much. That was very kind of you to say. Can I say something very quickly? Why do we have to fight? The two of you? Can’t we just—say something nice about John Kerry right now? (LAUGHTER.)

CARLSON: I like John. I care about John Kerry.

STEWART: And something about President Bush?

BEGALA: He’ll be unemployed soon? (LAUGHTER.) I failed the test. I’m sorry.

CARLSON: See, I made the effort anyway.

BEGALA: No, actually, I knew Bush in Texas a little bit. And the truth is, he’s actually a great guy. He’s not a very good president. But he’s actually a very good person. I don’t think you should have to hate to oppose somebody, but it makes it easier. (LAUGHTER.)

STEWART: Let me ask you a question. I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.

BEGALA: We have noticed.

STEWART: And I wanted to—I felt that that wasn’t fair and I should come here and tell you that I don’t—it’s not so much that it’s bad as it’s hurting America. But I wanted to come here today and say: Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop hurting America.


STEWART: And come work for us, because we, as the people...

CARLSON: How do you pay?

STEWART: The people—not well.

BEGALA: Better than CNN, I’m sure.

STEWART: But you can sleep at night.

STEWART: See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you’re helping the politicians and the corporations. And we’re left out there to mow our lawns.

BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we’re too rough on them when they make mistakes.

STEWART: No, no, no, you’re not too rough on them. You’re part of their strategies. You are partisan…what do you call it…hacks.

CARLSON: Wait, Jon, let me tell you something valuable that I think we do that I’d like to see you… When politicians come on, it’s nice to get them to try and answer the question. And in order to do that, we try and ask them pointed questions. I want to contrast our questions with some questions you asked John Kerry recently.

STEWART: If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you’re more than welcome to. (LAUGHTER.)

CARLSON: You have a chance to interview the Democratic nominee. You asked him questions such as—quote—”How are you holding up? Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?” “Have you ever flip-flopped?” et cetera, et cetera. Didn’t you feel like—you got the chance to interview the guy. Why not ask him a real question, instead of just suck up to him?

STEWART: Yes. “How are you holding up?” is a real suck-up. And I actually giving him a hot stone massage as we were doing it. (LAUGHTER.) You know, it’s interesting to hear you talk about my responsibility—and maybe this explains quite a bit—is that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity. (LAUGHTER.) So what I would suggest is, when you talk about you’re holding politicians’ feet to fire, I think that’s disingenuous. I think you’re…

CARLSON: “How are you holding up?” I mean, come on.

STEWART: No, no, no. But my role isn’t, I don’t think…

CARLSON: But you can ask him a real question, don’t you think, instead of saying…

STEWART: I don’t think I have to. My point is this. If your idea of confronting me is that I don’t ask hard-hitting enough news questions, we’re in bad shape, fellows. (LAUGHTER.)

CARLSON: We’re here to love you, not confront you. We’re here to be nice.

STEWART: I’m not. I’m here to confront you, because we need help

from the media and they’re hurting us.

BEGALA: Let me get this straight. If the indictment is—and I have seen you say this—that Crossfire reduces everything, as I said in the intro, to left, right, black, white, well, it’s because, see, we’re a debate show.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great.

BEGALA: It’s like saying The Weather Channel reduces everything to a storm front.

STEWART: I would love to see a debate show. That would be great. But that’s like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition. (LAUGHTER.)

CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I’m sorry. I think you’re a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.

STEWART: How old are you?

CARLSON: Thirty-five.

STEWART: And you wear a bow tie. (LAUGHTER.)

CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do.

STEWART: So this is theater. Now, listen, I’m not suggesting that you’re not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.

CARLSON: They’re difficult. (LAUGHTER.)

STEWART: But the thing is that this—you’re doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great. It’s not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you’re accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely. You’re on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?

CARLSON: Well, I’m just saying, there’s no reason for you—when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy’s butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It’s embarrassing.

STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have  is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one.

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I’m not going to be your monkey. I watch your show every day. And it kills me.

CARLSON: I can tell you love it.

STEWART: It’s so—oh, it’s so painful to watch. You know, because we need what you do. This is such a great opportunity you have here to a actually get politicians off of their marketing and strategy.

CARLSON: Is this really Jon Stewart? What is this, anyway?

STEWART: Yes, it’s someone who watches your show and cannot take it anymore. (LAUGHTER.) I just can’t. 

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