Jon Stewart says he was "stunned" by Louis C.K. scandal

Jon Stewart performs on stage as The New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation present the 10th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event on November 1, 2016 in New York City. 

Kevin Mazur Photography/Getty Images

Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart opened up about his reaction to news that his friend, comedian Louis C.K.admitted to masturbating in front of women and using his influence "irresponsibly."

On the "Today" show, when asked how he felt about the admission, Stewart said, "Stunned, I think." 

He continued, "You give your friends the benefit of the doubt. I tried to think of it in terms of, I've had have friends who have compulsions and have done things -- gambling drinking or drugs -- and we've lost some of them. Some of them have died and you always find yourself at a moment of, 'Did I miss something? Could I have done more?' And in this situation, I think we all could have. So you feel anger at what he did to people."

Stewart conceded, "Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women. The idea that there was this added layer of pressure and manipulation and fear and humiliation … I think it's a question of, we're used to being in charge, and I think if you talk to women, they're in a very difficult position, and you get mad at yourself, too, for laughing it off or for thinking, 'That didn't happen.' And it's hard."

Stewart also addressed a May 2016 conversation in which he dismissed the rumors about C.K. During a podcast taping for David Axelrod's "The Axe Files," Stewart laughed off a question about why he hadn't spoken up about the rumors about C.K. and said, "So the internet said Louis harassed women? ... I don't know what you're talking about." 

On "Today," Stewart said, "I was like, 'Look, I know this is very serious, but I know Louis, he's always been a gentleman to me,' which, again, it speaks to the blindness that I think a man has." Stewart said that was the first he had heard of the rumors. 

The former "Daily Show" host said he hopes the explosion of sexual harassment allegations against powerful men will bring about change. 

"It's another one of those endemic, systemic and complex problems that we all haven't had the urgency for, certainly myself included," he admitted.

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