Jon Stewart lambasted television executives for what he believes is a role in contributing to Donald Trump’s rise to his status as the Republican presidential nominee.
Speaking to former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod during a taping of “The Axe Files” podcast at the University of Chicago, Stewart said the television-news business is “incentivized in the way a crack dealer is incentivized.”
“It can do tremendous damage, but as long as people are buying crack, everything is good,” he said.
“There are heads of networks who have said Donald Trump is great for business,” Stewart added. “Well, why would you kill the thing that’s great for business? Why would you even say what it was?”
Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, called Trump “damn good” for the network earlier this year.
“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” he said.
Stewart, the former host of “The Daily Show,” said the industry hasn’t been able to create a counterweight to “politicians and the powerful” attempting to exploit the television medium.
“The media is no longer predator and prey, which I think should be the relationship, but a remora, attached at the bottom looking for crumbs coming off the shark,” he said.
And although Axelrod brought up the example of ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pressing Trump on various policy positions, Stewart said the “relentlessness” of the cycle requires a constant and equal counterweight.
“A counterweight does not mean you push back to a small extent as the water rushes by you everywhere else,” he said.
Rather, Stewart said television news has become incentivized for conflict over clarity. And the conflict Trump’s created is nothing original.
“This is the first season of Survivor,” he said. “This is Reality Show 101. I’m going to be an enormous dick at the start of the season. … That’s what he’s playing.”