No one takes greater delight at a political scandal than Jon Stewart. But when Weinergate erupted over the weekend, he found himself in an unusual situation. For the uninformed, Weinergate refers to New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who allegedly tweeted a photo of the veiled contents of his underwear to a 21-year-old Seattle-area student. Weiner, the congressman, said his Twitter account had been hacked by an outside party and that he did not send that photo to anyone. Weiner also happens to be an old friend of Stewart’s — they shared a Delaware summer beach house 25 years ago — and a frequent guest on the show.
On Tuesday, Stewart was flippant, joking about his friendship with Weiner and the awkward position his show had been placed. “Here is my dilemma,” he said at the opening. “We, a news-based comedy program, are looking at a story about a snapshot that appears to be an ample helping of penis, allegedly posted by a congressman whose name is a synonym for penis. I mean for a program like this, the phrase sweet spot springs to mind…
“The cons of this story is, this is my friend Anthony,” Stewart continued. “As a friend, I really hope this story’s not true. I really do. I would feel terrible if this were true — as a friend of his. And I do have my doubts about its veracity … My doubts stem from this: Uh, no way. No f—in’ way. Seriously. No way. In real life, my memory: this cat had a lot more Anthony and a lot less weiner … You know, I’ll be honest with you. The only thing Anthony Weiner and this gentleman here appear to have in common is that they both lean hard to the extreme left. Boom!”
But friends of Stewart shouldn’t discount his ultimate loyalty to the show. After Weiner poured fuel on the fire by telling journalists that he couldn’t be certain that the photo in question was not actually him, Stewart did what Stewart does. Though he still reminded his audience of his friendship with Weiner on last night’s show, he ridiculed Weiner’s lame attempts to clarify the embarrassing situation. “There are three things in this world that I do have certitude on,” Stewart said. “Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film. O.J. killed those two people. And the third one is what my erect penis looks like in my own underwear.”
What we have here is Stewart skewering a politician he’d rather not, but his credibility is on the line. Critics will measure whether he treated Weiner the same way he went after Chris Lee, the Republican New York congressman who sent a woman on Craigslist a topless photo of himself earlier this year. Weiner hasn’t received a smooth R&B theme song (yet) like Lee did, but the coverage seems comparable.
What do you think of Stewart’s coverage of Weinergate, in contrast to the less headline-worthy Craigslistgate? Would he be treating the humiliated pol differently if they weren’t old pals, or has he delivered the proper amount of ridicule?