How much do American voters care about facts?
They seem to care a lot, said Jon Stewart, the political comedian who helped the show he’s now a correspondent on become one of the most prominent news programs of the past decade.
But in a new interview with Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Mr. Stewart described a political environment in which the president — who, if nothing else, has a full-time communications team to spread his beliefs — is immune to the rigors of fact-checking.
During his career, Stewart has seen fellow comedians on television upend leaders on both sides of the aisle with uproarious but fair press. As recently as last week, Stephen Colbert’s takedown of President Trump and his top aides was eagerly anticipated and yet a bit muted — the topic was not in the spotlight.
Mr. Stewart, meanwhile, has never shied away from speaking truth to power — sometimes to the extent of advocating violence against leaders in his opinion. He said the last time he spoke truth to power, former President George W. Bush was hosting a State of the Union address.
“I stood up in front of the chamber and said, ‘This speech, at this particular moment, exists purely for the purpose of spinning your address. It exists in order to scam your mandate,’ ” Mr. Stewart said, recalling the experience. “I was really furious.”
But when it comes to Donald Trump, who can use Twitter to defend himself against charges of lying, Mr. Stewart said he would say more “if that were not the president.”
“You have the headline ‘Trump Makes America Sick,’ ” Mr. Stewart said. “It’s news. What does that mean?”
Mr. Noah, who has been a target of President Trump for supporting Obamacare, said Mr. Trump is “a symptom of a disease” of mistrust in government. But if people want to root out their opposition to Mr. Trump, Mr. Noah said they’ll need to listen to Mr. Stewart’s work.
In addition to performing, Mr. Stewart is a political satirist and writer. While president, Mr. Bush would often quip that he “hated” Mr. Stewart — but, Mr. Stewart said, that was completely true. He was the comedian who struck fear into the president’s heart.
“We’re told that the presidency is the most powerful position in the world,” Mr. Stewart said. “Now we know for certain — it’s not the most powerful position in the world — because we know that a comedian can make it feel that way.”