Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart distilled Donald Trump’s ability to control the political news cycle in an interview on Tuesday evening, explaining Trump succeeds in distracting the corporate news media from his damaging policies and the destruction of the government around him by launching direct attacks on the press itself.
Speaking with CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour along with fellow comedian Dave Chappelle, Stewart argued journalists feel personally “wounded” by Trump’s victory in 2016 and the hateful rhetoric he employs at his rallies, particularly his comments attacking the press.
“I think journalists have taken it personally,” Stewart said. “They are personally wounded and offended by this man. He baits them.”
While not defending Trump’s repeated statements journalists are “the enemy of the people” who print “fake news” or arguing the media should cover the Trump administration without remarking on the inhumanity of many of its policies and actions, Stewart called on reporters to resist engaging with the president on a personal level.
Stewart’s comments came a day after CNN reporter Jim Acosta, a frequent target of the White House, challenged Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to name the journalists who the president sees as “enemies of the people.”
“What he’s done well, I think, is appeal to their own narcissism,” Stewart added. “They take it personally and now he has changed the conversation to not that his policies are silly or not working or any of those other things, it’s all about the fight. He is able to tune out everything else and just get people focused on the fight. And he’s going to win that fight.”
Amanpour resisted briefly, saying, “It’s hard for us to be dispassionate when the words from the White House are aggressive against us.”
Many journalists and media critics agree with Stewart’s assessment: the media focus on Trump’s attacks on their industry to the detriment of newsworthy issues.