Accuracy in Media

Liberal funny man Jon Stewart is being praised by The New York Times as a giant of the journalism profession for having done a serious show about 9/11 first responders and sparking interest in a bill to pay for their health care costs. Senate Democrats tried to rush the bill through the lame-duck session at the last minute, without concern for cost and extravagant attorneys’ fees, and Stewart decided to jump on the bandwagon. He condemned Republicans for opposing the bill and called them “worst responders.”

Shepard Smith of Fox News followed Stewart’s lead, acting outraged and attacking Republicans. This earned Smith plaudits from Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

In fact, Senator Tom Coburn was trying to make sure that the bill was designed to help those it was supposed to benefit and that it was paid for, in order to avoid going further in debt. It has become apparent to anyone paying attention to fiscal affairs that the U.S. has a major debt problem that stems in part from misplaced compassion for some people by using other peoples’ money.

Among other things, Coburn had pointed out that:

  • The cost was inflated. The original House-passed bill was $7.5 billion and was eventually reduced to $4.2 billion, generous enough to cover any health care costs not covered by insurance or existing programs.
  • The original bill was “extremely susceptible to waste, fraud and abuse” because of the extended time period under which questionable claims could be filed.
  • Trial lawyers took too much of the money. Attorney’s fees were eventually capped at 10 percent.
  • Money could have been diverted to projects having nothing to do with the health care costs of 9/11 first responders. The final version prohibits such spending.

The bill passed after Coburn’s concerns were addressed.

Stewart was not concerned about such mundane things as making sure that the bill was drafted responsibly. He saw a chance to act as the self-appointed guardian of the Ground Zero workers. The ploy worked, garnering him fawning coverage in the Times.

It’s fine for Stewart to posture as a friend of workers. It probably made him feel good to be perceived as something other than a comedian. But what about those who carried out the 9/11 attacks? In one program Stewart joked that Christians were as much of a threat as radical Islam. Then don’t forget that Jon Stewart’s Washington rally for “sanity” featured a performer who had said that Salman Rushdie deserved death for a book about Islam. The Stewart rally also featured basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a typical Muslim.

Not surprisingly, surveys show that Stewart’s wisecracks about conservatives and seeming indifference to the terrorist threat attract an overwhelmingly liberal audience.

But Stewart’s network, Comedy Central, has its own problems in covering major issues of public importance. After it ran a “South Park” cartoon episode depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in a bear costume, the network came under threats of violence. Zachary Adam Chesser of a website called Revolution Muslim had written that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the cartoon’s creators, would “probably end up” like Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker murdered in 2004 for making a film critical of Islam.

Comedy Central folded to pressure and began omitting or bleeping references to Muhammad. In response, Stewart did a show on Comedy Central’s censorship, making fun of corporate management. But he said Comedy Central did this for the safety of its employees.

The Times reacted by publishing a story about how Revolution Muslim’s complaints about “South Park” were linked “to larger frustrations about American support for Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The story took a dramatic turn in October, 2010, when Chesser pleaded guilty to charges that included “communicating threats against the writers of the South Park television show” and providing support to Islamic terrorists in Somalia.

U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said, “Zachary Chesser seriously endangered the lives of innocent people who will remain at risk for many years to come. His solicitation of extremists to murder U.S. citizens also caused people throughout the country to fear speaking out—even in jest—lest they also be labeled as enemies who deserved to be killed.”

Perhaps a serious Jon Stewart show on the threat of radical Islam to free speech is in order. He can stand up to Republicans when they oppose trial lawyers, excessive spending, and more debt. Will he stand up to the Jihadists?




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