Before he went on CNN's "Crossfire" program and made news by lecturing its hosts, "The Daily Show" comedy anchor Jon Stewart complained about cable news to 60 Minutes Correspondent Steve Kroft.
Cable news, says Stewart, has become a street fight instead of civil discourse. "What has become rewarded in political discourse is the extremity of viewpoint," he tells Kroft. "People like the conflict. 'Conflict, baby! It sells.' 'Crossfire!' 'Hardball!' 'Shut up!' 'You shut up!'"
Stewart says reporters complain about Fox News, but he doesn't think much of CNN as an alternative. "Fox has the phrase 'fair and balanced' and journalists wring their hands about that," he says.
Stewart has no problems with Fox because everyone knows what it does, but not necessarily its competitors. He finds it ironic that journalists say, "'How can they...say fair and balanced, but they're not?' I watch it. It's not. It makes me so mad," Stewart says. "Well, CNN says, 'You can depend on CNN.' Guess what? I watch CNN. No, you can't!"
The comedian also takes a light swipe at news programs that may not all run on cable. When reminded that the Television Critics Association voted his "The Daily Show" the best news and information program of the year, Stewart says, "I think in some respects, they were punking you, as opposed to praising us."
The rest of the profile is one laugh after another, with Stewart humorously commenting on subjects including the two presidential candidates, John Edwards using Stewart's program to announce his presidential candidacy last fall, and what it would be like to have President Bush on his show.
On the vice president, Stewart remarks to Kroft, "Here's what I wonder about Dick Cheney, and the reason that maybe they keep him only in loyalty-oath audiences: If he becomes angry, I do believe he turns into the Hulk! And so, they try and keep people from questioning him, because he'll just -- uurrg -- arrgh. The shirt rips, suddenly he has hair. ...He just goes out there to a room full of supporters and says, 'You know we're all going to die, right? You're going to die unless I'm in charge.'"
As for John Kerry, Stewart quips: "I think if he focuses - if he really, really focuses - he can defeat Nixon and I think have our troops out of 'Nam by '74. He is what Kennedy has wrought, John Kennedy, not Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy has wrought a whole other thing that has to do with not wearing pants and running around Palm Beach. (Kerry is) Kennedy if you squint. You know, if you're not really paying that close attention. Sort of profiles in courage, profiles in might have been courage, profiles - you know what I'm saying?
Asked by Kroft if the "The Daily Show" is an "equal opportunity skewer," Stewart responds, "We don't consider ourselves equal opportunity anythings, because that's not - you know, that's the beauty of fake journalism. We don't have to - we travel in fake ethics."
CBS and Comedy Central are both owned by Viacom.