Obama Held Secret Meetings With Jon Stewart
President Barack Obama summoned television host Jon Stewart to the White House on several occasions before he made major announcements, according to a Politico article that revealed the secret connection between “The Daily Show” host and the president. News of the private meetings surfaced Tuesday as Stewart prepares to end his tenure as host on Aug. 6.
Some have questioned Stewart’s ethics because he did not disclose his connection to Obama. “The summoning of Stewart to the White House validates the belief that the comedian is more influential on the public discourse than any journalist,” said a Minnesota Public Radio article Tuesday. “But do the rules of journalism apply to a comedian who doesn’t consider himself a journalist even as the people watching consider him one?”
While still at the White House, former Obama advisor David Axelrod kept in touch with the host by phone and email. In an interview, Axelrod said Stewart was “a useful prod” for the administration. “I can’t say that because Jon Stewart was unhappy, policy changed. But I can say that he had forceful arguments, they were arguments that we knew would be heard and deserved to be answered,” said Axelrod, who also makes appearances on “The Daily Show.”
Stewart visited the Oval Office to meet with Obama privately on at least two occasions, one of which was in fall of 2011 while the administration dealt with heated budget negotiations. “The president wanted to counter his critics on the left and lay the groundwork for his 2012 re-election campaign,” former Obama aide Austan Goolsbee said to Politico.
As the Ukraine crisis broke out, the president met with Stewart in Feb. 2014 before a significant announcement. Later that day, Obama went on air to say that “there will be costs” if Russia continued its aggression towards Ukraine.
Obama frequently appears on the “The Daily Show,” and he visited most recently last Tuesday, close to Stewart’s departure date. He used the segment to discuss topics such as the Iran nuclear deal. Three of the seven times Obama has been on the show have been when he was in office.