On Monday night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart put on his media criticism hat for a master class on how to react if you've really botched a story or shown some other serious lapse in editorial judgment. It's funnier than it sounds.
Stewart started out by picking apart the fallout from an explosive October 60 Minutes report on the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The report, based around the heroic first-person account of British security contractor Dylan Davies, was a gripping look at the deadly terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
There's only one problem, Stewart said: Davies' story "was total bullshit." He made it all up. Lara Logan, the reporter who swallowed the story, "sort of acknowledged" that Davies had made the whole thing up, in a brief statement aired on Sunday night's program.
Stewart suggested that perhaps Logan and CBS should have done a better job vetting their source. Or as he noted, sarcastically and a little long-windedly: "If you cannot trust an international mercenary existing in the netherworld twixt assassin and bounty hunter — whose very livelihood is predicated on the flexible morality needed to survive in the chaos of lawlessness and failed nations — I mean, who can you trust?"
The 60 Minutes report on Benghazi prompted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to put a hold on all Obama nominees, so Stewart switched from slapping Logan and her colleges for sloppiness to criticizing Graham for not agreeing to release his blanket hold. Or I think that was his point: It's mostly Stewart doing that strange thing where he refashions Graham as a Tennessee Williams–style Southern belle. Even Stewart lost himself here.
60 Minutes actually got off pretty easy compared with Stewart's next target: TIME. Like The Week's Emily Shire, Stewart is not impressed with the magazine's latest cover, featuring a large profile shot of Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) under the headline "The Elephant in the Room." Unlike CBS, TIME hasn't apologized or admitted that its thinly veiled fat joke is in poor taste. In fact, TIME editors and reporters are "doubling down" on the joke, he added, talking about how Christie's a "big guy" who's done a "really huge thing" by getting re-elected in a blue state.
"Two can play that game, TIME magazine," Stewart warned. He then used some long-winded metaphor about how "TIME magazine processes information, digests it, then leaves its insights to its readers to pick through" to set up displaying the cover of the fictitious Daily Show Magazine. It features a dubiously funny exercise in graphic scatology. You've been warned.
In the middle segment, Jason Jones took a deep dive into the September recall election in Colorado that resulted in two Democratic state lawmakers losing their seats after voting for gun control measures. He spoke with one of the recalled lawmakers, ousted Senate President John Morse, and a political strategist named Jim Spencer.
All the measures Morse helped push through the Democratic-controlled legislature have strong public support, Jones noted, so why did Morse lose his seat? After talking with Spencer and a string of chagrined voters in Denver who support Morse's laws but didn't cast ballots in the recall, Jones concluded that it's mostly angry people who vote. So he tried to rile up the non-angry, reasonable people in the non-voting 80 percent, using unconventional methods. Watch: