Opinion: I Called Out Jon Stewart for Going After Joe Biden. He Was Right. I Was Wrong

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

As President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign continues to implode in the aftermath of last month’s disastrous debate performance, no one is feeling more vindicated right now than Jon Stewart.

Just about five months ago, the comedian made his triumphant return to hosting The Daily Show (on Mondays) and began by laying out the state of the 2024 presidential race. He called Biden and Donald Trump “similarly challenged,” said both men are “chronically outside the norm of anyone who has run for the presidency in the history of this country” and are “stretching the limits of being able to handle the toughest job in the world.”

This “both sides-ism,” as his colleague Jordan Klepper jokingly put it later in the segment, didn’t sit well with me—or many other of the show’s more progressive viewers. Biden might be old, but isn’t Trump fundamentally more dangerous for the fate of American democracy? Responding to the episode under the headline, “Jon Stewart Uses ‘Daily Show’ Return to Equate Trump and Biden,” I lamented the fact that Stewart was utilizing his platform to “tell Americans that their two choices for president are both not that different and equally terrible.”

I wasn’t alone. Mary Trump, the former president’s ultra-critical niece, tweeted, “Not only is Stewart’s ‘both sides are the same’ rhetoric not funny, it’s a potential disaster for democracy.” Keith Olbermann added, “Well after nine years away, there’s nothing else to say to the bothsidesist fraud Jon Stewart bashing Biden, except: Please make it another nine years.” The View hosts accused him of trafficking in “ageism.”

And on the other side of the spectrum, Elon Musk was impressed, replying, “Balance and humor return!”

Stewart himself clearly felt the heat, opening his next episode by addressing the leftist backlash. “It was one fucking show! It was just one fucking show!” he exclaimed. “But I guess, as the famous saying goes: ‘Democracy dies in discussion.’”

These past two weeks since the debate have seen nothing but discussion about Biden’s viability as a candidate. And I have to admit I was wrong for even suggesting Stewart’s decision to highlight Biden’s evident deficiencies was unhelpful. Perhaps if more prominent liberal voices had been willing to speak out earlier in the campaign cycle, we wouldn’t be barreling toward what is feeling more and more like an inevitable Trump landslide in November.

So while Stewart is clearly not pleased with his own prescience, it should come as no surprise that he has been taking his own strange version of a victory lap on The Daily Show.

Going live the night of the debate, he was justifiably horrified by what he saw, delivering the brutal assessment that Biden has “resting 25th Amendment face” when Trump was speaking and joking that he could have used some “recreational drugs” to get through it. “Because this cannot be real life,” he said, exasperatedly. “It just can’t.”

Jon Stewart Begs for Recreational Drugs to Cope With Debate Disaster

And then this week, Stewart stressed that it’s still not too late for the president to get out of the race, and fired back at the gaslighting that the American people have been subjected to by Biden loyalists who are claiming the debate debacle was nothing more than a “bad night.”

“Rather than respecting the American people and having an honest, at least partial conversation about what we had all seen, we were told immediately, ‘These are not the droids you’re looking for,’” Stewart said on Monday’s show.

That must have been how Stewart felt when critics, like me, called him out for trying to warn us about Biden’s increasingly weak candidacy. We shouldn’t make the same mistake again.

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