The past week has brought plenty of Jon Stewart retrospectives honoring his work on “The Daily Show,” but not everyone is celebrating the late night host and singing his praises as he prepares to sign off from “The Daily Show.” With Stewart’s final show set for tonight, documentarian Alex Gibney has written a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter criticizing Stewart and other media figures for failing to confront Tom Cruise about his involvement with Scientology.
Gibney’s acclaimed documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” had Cruise as one of its biggest targets, and he had hoped that shedding light on the actor’s involvement with the religion would force viewers to remain highly critical of him. Much to Gibney’s disappointment, not a single talk show host or news head brought up anything remotely related to Scientology while Cruise was making the press rounds during his giant publicity tour for “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.”
“I love Jon Stewart. So I was disappointed when, with only a few episodes of ‘The Daily Show’ left, he didn’t confront Tom Cruise about human rights abuses in the Church of Scientology,” writes Gibney. “What a missed opportunity. For once, someone with intelligence, rhetorical skill and insight could have confronted Cruise about the engine of cruelty that drives his chosen religion and reminded the world that the smiling movie star sits idly by, effectively endorsing a longstanding and ongoing pattern of human rights abuses.”
The director admits that Stewart was one of many journalists who didn’t touch the controversial topic. While that may or may not have been the result of a deal between producers — allegedly having Cruise on a show meant no Scientology questions from the host — Gibney talks about how that only exposes larger issues of celebrity culture. He also writes that no such deal had been made between Cruise’s team and Comedy Central.
“The problem is much bigger than any one host. It’s the machinery of celebrity. It takes hard work and lots of resources to manufacture celebrities. And once they produce profits, investors don’t want to see their products tarnished,” he says. “In protecting celebrity, the gears of power have teeth.”
Read all of Gibney’s guest column here. Stewart’s final “The Daily Show” hosting gig airs tonight on Comedy Central at 11pm.