Jon Stewart would be the first person to tell you that a) he is a comedian who is the anchor of a fake news show, and b) he leans left in his politics. But the difference between Jon Stewart and others on the left is he calls it when he sees it. If Obama says something over-the-top or hyperbolic, Jon Stewart will make fun of the president. Stewart has repeatedly called out Obama for failing to keep his promise to close Guantanamo Bay prison. This is refreshing because in the last few years, it has been very difficult to find anyone on the left who will make even tepid criticisms of Obama.
So it is no surprise that Jon Stewart led the charge in criticizing the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, the Justice Department targeting the Associated press and Fox news, and the cover up over Benghazi. Indeed, when Obama stated that he found out about the IRS scandal on TV, Stewart played a montage of Obama clips going back five years in which the president made the same statement about any scandal that came close to the federal government. At the end of the montage, Stewart states, "Really? I'm beginning to think that Obama learned that Osama bin Laden was dead when he heard himself say it on TV." Cue amusing photoshopped picture of Obama watching himself on live TV.
But Stewart is still a comedian on the left, and while he made a great joke about the fact that he hates it when Fox news is right, he admitted that they're right about the above mentioned scandals, even though he pretended to be unable to say the word "right" in order to get a few more laughs. So at the end of a week of scandals, he (and every other American comedian) was desperate for a scandal of the right wing. But unfortunately conservatives have been behaving very well. There have been no hypocritical divorces, no drunk driving charges, and no abuses of power.
Suddenly, enter a Canadian conservative with a scandal. Usually Canada is not even on the radar of the American media, especially the American comedians, other than the odd joke about how boring we are up north.
But thank God for Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, who is the center of endless scandals thanks to the labor friendly, left leaning, Toronto Star newspaper. They were the ones who first broke the breathless story of Rob Ford eating Kentucky Fried Chicken while he was supposed to be on a diet. The horror! Unfortunately for the Star, this rather diluted the frenzy when two of their journalists announced that they had seen a cell phone video of the mayor smoking something, which they have be told by the drug dealer who owns the cell phone is crack cocaine. The fact that the head of the gossip website Gawker backs them up didn't really help. Luckily for the Star, the American comedians were desperate for a story of a conservative behaving badly, whether there was verifiable evidence didn't matter.
On May, 21st, right in the middle of three scandals swirling close to the White House, Jon Stewart led with an old clip of Councillor Ford talking about how "Orientals work like dogs." Stewart wanted to show that Rob Ford is a fat, white racist. The fact that Ford was suggesting that Toronto city council should support and reward these hardworking Canadians was ignored because he didn't use the politically correct term: Asians. The fact that the clip is nearly ten years old didn't matter either. It was essential to establish Ford as an uneducated, right-wing thug. Now cue the crack cocaine scandal and all the jokes that a comedian can run with on that story.
Stewart wasn't alone. Jimmy Kimmel and others also spent the evening joking about Ford. CNN and other news organizations picked up the story too. Suddenly, boring Toronto was interesting, not because of the cocaine scandal, but because it was just so awkward making jokes about the real scandals in the American federal government.
Even if Rob Ford smoked any kind of drug, it is not a threat to the liberty of the people not to be targeted for their political beliefs, and it is not a threat to the freedom of journalists to scrutinize every corner of government. Ford didn't try to cover up gross incompetence that cost lives. There are very serious scandals unfolding in America, scandals that threaten the very foundations of a democracy. But for one night, all the comedians wanted to talk about was the possibility that the mayor of (what is for most Americans) an obscure Canadian city may have been smoking crack.
For one night, Toronto was finally the center of the world, but for all the wrong reasons. It was just a distraction.