The heat of this intense political season crossed over to CNN's "Crossfire" Friday and continued to make a stir on the Web Monday after Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," blasted the CNN program during a guest appearance.
Though Stewart was on "Crossfire," hosted by pundits Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, Friday to promote his new best-selling book "America," the popular fake-news host was most definitely not in funny-guy mode. He took Begala and Carlson to task for engaging in televised "theater" that fails to enlighten and educate the public on current events and important issues.
"Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America," Stewart said. "You're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.
What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery."
Carlson and Begala appeared taken aback by Stewart's earnest criticism and his failure to quip and banter.
"Wait. I thought you were going to be funny," the bow-tie wearing Carlson said on the show. "Come on. Be funny."
"No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey," Stewart answered.
The increasing tension between the three men was punctuated at the end of the program when Carlson said, "I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion."
"You know what's interesting, though?" Stewart answered. "You're as big [an expletive] on your show as you are on any show."
On Monday, Carlson commented on what he called Stewart's "pomposity."
"I thought and I still think that he's a smart and talented guy. That was not clear from anything he said on our show," Carlson said. "I just expected him to have something interesting to say and I didn't think it was so interesting. I thought it was banal, what he said."
"There is a real anger out there at the media, and in many ways I share it," Begala said Monday. "All I can control is my half of the half-hour, and I am so proud of my half of the half-hour. He's just wrong."
Through a Comedy Central representative, Stewart Monday declined to comment. A spokesman for the network said the epithet Stewart called Carlson "may be the one line [Stewart] regrets," and added that there would be "no objection" to Carlson being a guest on "The Daily Show."
Stewart's appearance definitely struck a nerve with the public; the Friday edition of "Crossfire" became a hot topic on the Internet over the weekend.
Transcripts of the interview and clips from the show popped up all over the Web, and the site-ranking service Blogdex.net showed that a dozen Stewart-"Crossfire" stories were among the most popular stories on the Internet. On www.ifilm.com, a "Crossfire" excerpt was the most viewed clip on Monday.
Comedy Central said that "The Daily Show" had received more than 1,000 supportive e-mails after the program aired.
Though Carlson and Begala took Stewart to task for his less-than-hard-hitting interview of John Kerry on "The Daily Show" in August, Stewart's response to that line of questioning on Friday was succinct.
"But my point is this," Stewart said. "If your idea of confronting me is that I don't ask hard-hitting enough news questions, we're in bad shape, fellows."
"You're on CNN," he said later in the program. "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."
Stewart blasts "Crossfire," pundits fire back
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