As the 111th Congress drew to a close, lawmakers passed a bill guaranteeing federal funding for the health care costs of 9/11 responders. The bill's success is being attributed by many not to the efforts of New York's senators, but to the comedian Jon Stewart, who dedicated the entire Dec. 16 episode of "The Daily Show" to the Republicans' refusal to support the bill. That, suggest Bill Carter and Brian Stelter in The New York Times, could make him "the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow," the CBS host who railed against the anti-communist finger-pointing of Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. Does Stewart really measure up to the likes of Murrow?
Both are advocates who helped change the law: Stewart might call his focus on the 9/11 health care bill "advocacy satire," say Carter and Stelter in The New York Times, but campaigning so "openly for passage of the bill... usually goes by the name 'advocacy journalism.'" The scale of Stewart's impact on public policy "may not measure up" to the role Murrow played in changing the law, but the "Daily Show" host certainly helped turn "the momentum around."
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Stewart's advocacy was different than Murrow's: Those who watched Stewart's Dec. 16 show, says Doug Mataconis in Outside The Beltway, will have seen "little more than an emotional appeal that boils down to the question, how dare we not give money to these people?" But if you look beyond the "emotional resonance of Sept. 11," there were problems with this bill that needed sorting out. What Stewart did is "not journalism, it's activism." Murrow knew the difference.
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He was not the only who helped the bill pass: Stewart wasn't alone in campaigning on behalf of the 9/11 responders bill, says Jon Bershad in Mediaite. Shepard Smith of Fox News — who called out every single GOP lawmaker who refused to appear on his show to discuss the bill — is "rarely (if ever) mentioned" by those singling out Stewart. Not that either host will care much. "They're just happy the bill is passed."
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