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Jon Stewart Says Giving a Platform to Bill O’Reilly Is the ‘Worst Legacy’ of ‘The Daily Show’

Jon Stewart discussed his "The Daily Show" legacy and a variety of other topics in a recent New York Times interview.

Jon Stewart Mitch McConnell Late Show Stephen Colbert

Jon Stewart

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

It’s been five years since Jon Stewart retired from “The Daily Show,” and the veteran comedian is still closely following politics and the news media. Stewart, who hosted the late-night show for 16 years, recently spoke to the New York Times’ David Marchese in a wide-ranging interview about current events, contemporary news coverage, and his legacy at “The Daily Show.”

His opinion on the latter-most point stemmed from a question regarding the current state of Fox News. Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was a frequent guest on “The Daily Show” during Stewart’s tenure and Stewart said that consistently giving O’Reilly such a large platform was possibly the worst aspect of his work on the comedy show.

“The question was always, ‘Why would you talk to him? Why do you have him on the show if you can’t destroy him?’ If you want to talk about the worst legacy of ‘The Daily Show,’ it was probably that,” Stewart said in the New York Times interview. “Those moments when you had a tendency, even subconsciously, to feel like, ‘We have to live up to the evisceration expectation.’ We tried not to give something more spice than it deserved, but you were aware of, say, what went viral. Resisting that gravitational force is really hard.”

Fox News has changed since Stewart’s departure from “The Daily Show.” O’Reilly was fired from the network in 2017 following multiple sexual harassment claims, and pundits such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, who Stewart famously lambasted when Carlson co-hosted “Crossfire” on CNN, have become the network’s most prominent faces. Stewart mused that the duo were “just the next level” for Fox News, as the network wanted to push O’Reilly’s ideas further right via new TV personalities.

Stewart has been a relatively rare interviewee since departing “The Daily Show” but spoke to the New York Times to promote “Irresistible,” the upcoming Steve Carell and Chris Cooper-led political comedy that hits VOD June 26. It marks Stewart’s first directing gig since the 2014 drama, “Rosewater,” and only his second feature overall. The comedian also discussed his issues with the news media’s political coverage, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign strategy, and President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As for “The Daily Show’s” legacy, although it’s gone somewhat out of favor on most late-night comedy shows recently, it used to be standard practice for late-night hosts to invite controversial right-wing guests on their shows. Current “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah interviewed political commentator Tomi Lahren on his program in 2016, while “The Daily Show” alumna Samantha Bee invited Glenn Beck on “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” in 2016, where they “put on our Christmas sweaters and got to work on healing the nation.” Trump was interviewed on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in 2015.

Check out Stewart’s full interview with the New York Times here.

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