Prepare yourself, folks, because I’m about to let you in on some writer industry secrets that might shock you. Perhaps the biggest? Sometimes editors change or created whole- cloth the titles for our articles. I know. And sometimes, the editors make those changes in order to increase the number of views that said article receives. Again, I know.
I’m revealing that long held, deep secret because I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason that the “Jon Stewart had a secret meeting with Obama” is a thing. See, here’s the actual article which “exposed” the fact that Stewart had met twice with Obama at the White House. And maybe surprisingly, it’s actually about Stewart’s long political activism record especially his work on behalf of veterans and 9/11 first responders. It’s the sort of complimentary work that you often see at the end of someone’s career. And if the title didn’t include the word “secret”, it’d probably have been mostly disregarded.
But, man, adding “secret” really brought out the whack jobs. The whole story seems drenched in intrigue. Even after reading the article, and seeing Stewart’s response to the controversy on The Nightly Show, I still had some lingering questions. Namely “Why in god’s name is this such a big fucking deal?”
I’m not trying to sound glib, I just legitimately don’t get it. Obama’s been on The Daily Show seven times. Seven. It couldn’t have been surprising that Obama thought highly of Stewart as a journalist/ activist. And given the number of politicians Stewart has interviewed over the years, it doesn’t look like Obama was wrong to think that. Are people just upset that the President of the United States is opting to consult with a “comedian” instead of “real” journalists? Given the state of “real” journalism, that’s not the the comedian’s fault.
So maybe they don’t object to the fact that Obama was treating Stewart as a respectable journalist, but that Obama seemed to seek out Stewart’s counsel. Isn’t it weird that the President would ask a journalist for his or her read on an upcoming White House announcement/ press briefing/ speech? As it turns out, we’ve got no idea really. A 2013 U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit case decided that White House visitor logs aren’t covered under the Freedom of Information Act. So if any president met with a journalist and didn’t want to tell us about it, he didn’t have to. In fact the only reason that this is coming to light now is because Obama volunteered to disclose most of the visitor logs online back in 2009. A clear caveat being that the White House could withhold meetings deemed to be “highly sensitive.”
Given that the records were released about ten days before Stewart’s retirement, I’d actually argue that the meetings weren’t disclosed immediately in order to protect Stewart’s reputation, and not Obama’s. Stewart might be unabashedly progressive, but his show has never shied away from taking Democrats and liberals to task. It’s part of what we love about him, and it’s understandable that he might not want to appear as though he’s too close to the Obama administration.
All of which leads back to my initial question: what’s the BFD? A media savvy, politically active comedian/ journalist meets with the President to theoretically give his input on how an announcement will play, and we’re supposed to lose our shit over that?
Well, not we. But the whack jobs? Hell yes are they losing their shit. My personal favorite is Kyle Smith from the New York Post. Granted, Smith is the film critic for the Post, and “America’s most cantankerous film critic” at that. So he’s mostly not a journalist at not a newspaper. His whole article is filled with unsubstantiated claims and accusations, and is mostly worthless. But this paragraph is maybe the best thing I’ve ever read:
Moreover, Politico reported Tuesday, “Daily Show” staffers routinely call up the White House to get the administration’s input.
WHOA! That is a huge scoop! Someone please alert all of the media that people who work at a news gathering show are regularly in contact with the White House. During these conversations it can only be assumed that these staffers are getting “statements” from “sources” and “verifying” “facts.”
Maybe the most surprising thing is that after reading Smith’s copy, no one pulled him aside to explain, “Yeah, dude, that’s called reporting.”