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How Tucker Carlson Got the Last Laugh on Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart’s new AppleTV+ show is reportedly flopping, while Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s cable news empire is growing.

SO WHAT

The media landscape has changed a lot since Stewart’s famous public shaming of Carlson in 2004.

THEN

During a much-discussed October 2004 episode of CNN’s “Crossfire” news debate show, Stewart verbally dressed down Carlson, accusing him of being a “partisan hack.”

“It’s hurting America. Here is what I wanted to tell you guys: Stop. You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably,” Stewart told Carlson and his co-host Paul Begala.

  • Stewart’s performance was widely celebrated in the media and helped catapult the “Daily Show” comedian to liberal stardom.
  • Weeks later, in January 2005, “Crossfire” was canceled, leaving Carlson out of a job.
  • In August 2015, Stewart went out on top, drawing a “Daily Show” record of 5.1 million viewers for his final appearance in the host seat.

NOW

“The Problem with Jon Stewart” — Stewart’s much-hyped return to TV in September — has been a “flop,” Bloomberg reported Monday.

Some 180,000 homes tuned in to the HBO show’s premiere, but by the fifth episode, just 40,000 were watching, an 80% drop, according to data by Samba TV.

  • “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” a similar HBO show hosted by a former Stewart protege, is seen in about 850,000 homes.
  • In the face of failure, Stewart’s liberal comedy has turned “cringingly super-woke,” in the words of political commentator Andrew Sullivan.
  • “[T]his was the man who had lacerated ‘Crossfire’ for bringing too much heat and not enough light. He believed in sane discourse. He was a liberal, right?” Sullivan wrote earlier this month after an unhappy appearance on “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”
  • “Wrong. … On the race question, Stewart has decided to go way past even [radical antiracism trainer] Robin DiAngelo, in his passionate anti-whiteness.”

Carlson, meanwhile, has risen to be cable news’ undisputed ratings king and arguably the most influential man in media.

  • In July 2020, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” broke the record for highest-rated program in cable news history, garnering an average nightly audience of 4.33 million viewers.
  • Carlson has also expanded into streaming, anchoring Fox Nation with “Tucker Carlson Today,” and into documentaries with “Tucker Carlson Originals.”
  • His release of a trailer last week for “The End of Men,” a documentary about the decline of American masculinity, was enough to spur days of outraged analysis by the Washington Post and MSNBC.

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