After a day of much online criticism for the way he failed to deal aggressively with the bombshell press conference of his friend Anthony Weiner the day before, Jon Stewart opened his Tuesday night show with a comic press conference on the issue. The bit ran almost 10 minutes.
A parody of Weiner's Monday press conference, Stewart's opening sketch was built around the joke of the comedian mimicking Weiner as he himself "took full responsibility" for his limited and tame response Monday to Weiner's confession of engaging in creepy online, telephone and social media relationships with women half his age.
In Stewart's comic press conference, he announced that as a result of his Monday night failings, he was resigning as host of "The Daily Show." Weiner, while saying over and over Monday how he was "taking full responsibility," did not resign from Congress -- despite widespread calls for him do so.
The buzz from the bit this morning will probably be about Stewart really cutting his hand during the fake press conference and bleeding throughout the last one-third of it. I'd like to say he was suffering for his art. But his performance fell short of being particularly clever or funny, let alone artistic.
Stewart seems conflicted. At any rate, something has him off his game, he just can't seem to find his comedic voice on this issue. You can read AP's account of his injury here. I would add as a footnote for your consideration a reminder as to what the Freudians say about there not being any pure accidents. I'n only half kidding.
But whether you think this bit was funny or not, what matters most about Stewart's Tuesday night show is what he did NOT do in connection with Weinergate: any media criticism. Stewart has been dead wrong for the past week in trying to rip the press, particularly CNN, for its aggressive coverage of Weiner. Read my criticism of him here. If nothing else, Monday vindicated that aggressive, professional coverage from the mainstream media, and Stewart does not seem interested in acknowledging that -- or his own off-base criticism of media outlets like CNN.
I think Stewart really wimped-out Tuesday night in trying to blame his lame Monday night performance on the facts that Weiner's press conference was at 4:30 p.m. Monday and his show taped at 6. In the comedic skit, he said he "took full responsibility" for deciding to include a few jokes about it at the top of Monday's show while otherwise sticking mainly with the scripted show.
In the media world that Stewart is otherwise so happy to mock, we have short deadlines almost every day and night -- and we are never allowed to blame them for incomplete or inaccurate stories. In the correction box of a mainstream newspaper, have you ever seen short deadlines blamed?
No, it is just "we were wrong and we apologize for the mistake." If it is wrong or incomplete, then don't put it out there. Blaming a short deadline is weak and phony for someone who wants to play a media critic on TV like Stewart does.
Also, check out this tweet from Stewart published before Monday night's show. Does this sound like someone who feels he doesn't have time to do a proper job? Only after the reviews of his performance Tuesday, did Stewart claim this excuse.
The bad news for Stewart, I don't think this story is going away any time soon -- as long as Weiner stays in office anyway. So, he better find a more effective way to deal with it.
A technical footnote: We had a big response to my Monday night review of Stewart's performance, and several readers emailed about their frustration in not being about to comment.
As I wrote on Friday here, several Sun blogs have been unable to receive comments since Friday. Z on TV is one of them. It is a technical problem that has nothing to do with any of us working on Calvert Street. I have been engaging with some readers on Twitter, but I realize that doesn't help those of you that want to comment.
All I can say is that we are hoping to be able to receive comments by Wednesday. Please stop back and try later if you can't get a comment up at first. Or, let's get acquainted on Twitter. There's a link to me right alongside this post on the righthand rail.