It seemed like classic Daily Show material: Former Vice President Al Gore, recipient of the Nobel Prize and the Academy Award for his work warning of the dangers of global warming, selling his struggling network Current TV to Al Jazeera, of the oil sheikhdom of Qatar, for 500 million petro-dollars. How could Jon Stewart not have some fun with that? But a week went by, and the Comedy Central mainstay said nothing about the deal.
Until Thursday night. In a segment headlined “Qur’rent TV,” Stewart took on the Gore news. But instead of mocking the former vice president, Stewart suggested the real story was not about Al Gore or Al Jazeera, but about…Fox News. Beginning with a brief news clip reporting the sale, Stewart said: “Oh man! Former Democratic vice president turned climate change crusader, sells openly liberal cable channel to a Muslim! Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have our first Fox boner alert of 2013!”
From there, Stewart played clips of Fox discussion of the Al Jazeera deal and joked: “Oh my God, that means Muslims will be able to see into our homes.” But the Fox critique of Gore was not that he sold his network to Muslims but that it was hypocritical for the global warming activist to sell out to an oil kingdom (a critique also heard in some quarters of the left.) Indeed, in a brief aside, Stewart said that was “a pretty legitimate point.” But it wasn’t about Islam. And while some of the Fox clips Stewart played referred to Al Jazeera as “anti-American,” none mentioned Islam.
But that didn’t stop Stewart. His main point, at the end of the segment, was to note that Fox parent company News Corporation owns a 20 percent stake in a Saudi network, Rotana, that, like Al Jazeera, has broadcast hateful comments about Jews. That, Stewart suggested, meant that the real hypocrisy in the Al Gore-Al Jazeera story lay not with Gore, but with Fox. Of course, to make his point, Stewart had to ignore what the Fox commentators actually said. (Disclosure: I am a Fox News contributor.)
It was a tough assignment for the liberal comedian to deal with a high-profile embarrassment involving a Democratic icon. One obvious solution: make the story about something else. Or at least try to.