In the big scheme of things what Jon Stewart says about me or what I say about him doesn’t amount to much. It doesn’t really amount to much in the small scheme of things, either. But this is the United States of Entertainment, after all, so here goes.
The other night Jon Stewart played a few clips of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and me, condemning the Left for tarring Tea Party protestors as a bunch of racists, because of what a few people might or might not have said at a rally in Washington.
Stewart said he agreed with us. Generalizing like that, he said, was wrong. Then he fired the heavy artillery. He ran a montage of Fox News commentators making broad generalizations about liberals, including one of me saying that Democrats and liberals think people who live in the middle of the country are a bunch of jerks.
Get it? We’re condemning generalizations then what do we do? We generalize about liberals, proving that we’re nothing more than a bunch of right-wing hypocrites.
End of story? Not quite.
O’Reilly asked me to go on his show and tell his audience what I thought about Stewart’s take. What follows is a transcript of what I said:
“I am pleading guilty. And that’s a sincere plea of guilty. I said that liberals think people who live in the middle of the country are a bunch of jerks, and obviously all liberals don’t think that. But I will tell you what, an awful lot of liberal elites think that. I worked with these liberal elites for 28 years at CBS News, and they were always throwing around the term white trash, by which they meant poor southerners who didn’t go to Harvard. I’m not sure why that makes them trash. As far as the middle of the country is concerned, you know, this was flyover country where people flew the flag on the Fourth of July and went bowling and ate at Red Lobster. You know, they were a bunch of hicks. But even all liberal elites don’t think that. So I am saying I was wrong, Jon Stewart is right.”
That’s not something you hear on cable television very often. A commentator saying, I was wrong. But that wasn’t the end of the story, either. I then went on to make another point, looking straight into the camera.
“But let me speak directly to Jon Stewart for just a few of seconds, because I know he watches. He is a big fan of the show. And Jon, if you have an ounce of introspection, you may want to take this seriously. If you just want to be a funny man, who talks to an audience that will laugh at anything you say, that’s okay with me, no problem. But if clearly you want to be a social commentator, more than just a comedian and if you want to be a good one, you better find some guts because even though you criticize liberals as well as conservatives, congratulations on that, when you had Frank Rich on your show, who generalizes all the time about conservatives and Republicans being bigots, you didn’t ask him a single tough question. You gave him a lap dance. You practically had your tongue down his throat. And how about those black columnists who play the race card and generalize about Tea Party people being racists? Why don’t you go after them by name and do it with the same passion and gusto that you use when you are going after Fox people? And how about Bill Maher? Bill Maher generalizes about people who go to church being a bunch of dopes. Is there some rule that says a comic can’t go after another comic?
“Here is my final word, Jon, you can do whatever you want. But if you don’t do that [take on your fellow liberals – with gusto!] guess what? You are not nearly as edgy as you think you are. You are just a safe, Jay Leno with a much smaller audience, but you get to say the f-bomb, which gives your incredibly unsophisticated audience the illusion — the illusion — that you’re courageous and that you’re a renegade. But it’s only an illusion.”
No, there’s no big message here. No great moral of the story. Slandering the tea partiers as racists is still wrong. And implying that all liberals think Middle Americans are dopes is wrong too. But you know what, it’s not nearly as wrong — because, as I said on O’Reilly’s show, way too many liberal elites look down their noses at “ordinary” Americans. So here’s one more generalization Jon Stewart won’t like: Liberal elites think they’re not only smarter and more sophisticated than the kind of Americans who live in Kansas or Mississippi and like to bowl or eat at Red Lobster – they think they’re … better! And if you don’t believe me, just ask those libs. They’ll tell you how wonderful they are.