Thursday marks political satirist Jon Stewart's last "Daily Show" episode on Comedy Central after a 16-year run. "The Daily Show" has attained the kind of gravitas that few traditional news shows have, which is ironic considering Stewart is essentially a comedian. But Stewart's fearlessness in meeting absurdity and political spin head-on -- using surgical analysis and absurd humor -- has been a potent weapon that traditional journalists don't, and usually can't, deploy.
The New York Times even ran a piece Thursday inviting journalists to muse on what the profession could learn from Stewart.
Running consecutive clips of a political figure's contradictory positions to expose their lies or rhetorical absurdities was a tactic that has come to be a "Daily Show" signature. For all the show's irony and humor, holding people at their word and exposing lies was at the heart of Stewart's unironic journalistic enterprise.
Stewart may have inadvertantly revealed the secret to the show's success in an interview he conducted in 2005 with Princeton philosophy professor Harry G. Frankfurt, author of "On Bulls---." The book argued that unlike the liar, the bulls---er doesn't care about the difference between the truth and lies. Their only aim is to persuade their audience. Both he and Stewart agreed that we are living in an age of bulls---, of which political spin was a subset.
Trying to figure out the difference between bulls--- and political spin, Stewart asked, "Is the difference that there’s an implicit agreement with those who are all bulls---ing each other, not to call it that?"
Whether holding journalists accountable when he believed they failed at their jobs -- as he did with CNBC's financial adviser Jim Cramer or former New York Times investigative journalist Judith Miller, or taking on Fox News (which he called "Faux News"), whatever Stewart did in his 16-year tenure at "The Daily Show," he never agreed when confronted with bulls--- "not to call it that."
Here's a look at some of Stewart's biggest targets.
Jim Cramer, Host Of CNBC's 'Mad Money'
In March 2009, a year after the American economic collapse, Stewart set his sights on Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money," accusing him of being one of many who championed the financial markets, knowing they were in a downslide. "I can't reconcile the brilliance and knowledge you have of the intricacies of the market with the crazy bull---- I see you do every night," Stewart told Cramer.
Judith Miller, Former New York Times Investigative Reporter
Judith Miller has been accused of being a cheerleader for the George W. Bush administration's push to go to war in Iraq and failing to dig deeper as a reporter when she wrote erroneously about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program -- the basis for the U.S. decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
“I believe that you helped the administration take us to, like, the most devastating mistake in foreign policy that we’ve made in, like, 100 years,” Stewart told Miller. “But you seem lovely.”
Fox News' Stuart Varney Goes After The Poor
Prefacing a mashup featuring Fox News economic journalist Stuart Varney (6:31 - 8:35) going on diatribes against the poor, Stewart quips that "He [Varney] does segments that would make Ebeneezer Scrooge go, 'Hey, take it easy. These are people we're talking about.'"
On Donald Trump's Diss Of John McCain
Republican presidential candidate and front-runner Donald Trump has turned the offensively provocative declaration into a crude art form, and he took a lot of heat for claiming that Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, wasn't a war hero. Perhaps no critique could be as scathing as Stewart's, who threw in his own withering impression of Trump.
Bill O'Reilly, 'Mayor Of Bulls--- Mountain'
Although Stewart seemed to have softened toward frequent target and sparring partner Bill O'Reilly, treating him more as a clown than a true threat, Stewart blamed O'Reilly and Fox News for forwarding myths about, among other things, President Barack Obama's birthplace and legitimacy. In a mock debate with O'Reilly in 2012, Stewart cites Fox News as the ground zero of bulls---, the mode of discourse he and Frankfurt said was so corrosive to society in their 2005 discussion.
"A great portion of this country has created an alternate universe," Stewart says in the "debate," referring to Fox News. "I call this alternate reality: Bulls--- Mountain." He added, gesturing toward O'Reilly, "I've come to plead to the mayor of Bulls--- Mountain. Talk to your people."