Jon Stewart was ‘stunned’ to hear about Louis CK, despite hearing rumors a year ago

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In one of the stories I did about Louis CK last week, I mentioned the year-old video of Jon Stewart being asked directly about Louis and the rumors (at that time, it was just “rumors”) of his sexual harassment of young, female comedians. Jon Stewart was a complete douche about it. Here’s the video:

Just one dude standing up for the reputation of another dude? Or something more sinister? Personally, I’ve been feeling less and less generosity towards Jon Stewart over the past year or so. He lost me his political comments following the election, and there were long-standing criticisms that his tenure as host of The Daily Show was mostly about the glory of white dudes. White dudes behind the scenes, white dudes as guests, white dudes making jokes. Jon Stewart has blind spots, like most people, but the way he reacts to criticism left a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway, Jon was on the Today Show this morning to promote The Night of Too Many Stars, which he’s hosting for HBO. Louis CK was supposed to appear on the charity show but HBO kicked him off last week. Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie asked Jon about Louis CK, his friend and colleague of 30 years.

Jon says he was “stunned” and he asked himself “Did I miss something? Could I have done more?” and “In this situation, I think we all could have. So you feel anger at what you did to people.” Except that he did hear about it a year ago, which he also brings up. So what is it – he was stunned at this new information, or he was stunned that he didn’t believe the rumors years ago? We also don’t know the extent of how many people were covering for Louis CK over the years, whether they knew the extent of Louis’s predation and actively looked the other way, or whether they simply didn’t believe women’s stories within comedy.

Jon says he had a feeling of “I know Louis, he’s always been a gentleman to me” and admits that “it speaks to the blindness that I think a man has… Digging around in it and finding that some people had done, it was hard, but we were all assured like, no, but we took somebody’s word for it, and maybe that’s an error on our part.” Maybe it’s an error? Louis CK was allowed to do this for so many years because men like Jon Stewart actively chose to ignore the rumors and the stories and cover up for him.

Jon also says, “Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women… The idea that there was this added layer of pressure and manipulation and fear and humiliation… you get mad at yourself, too, for laughing it off or for thinking, ‘That didn’t happen.’ And it’s hard….It’s another one of those endemic, systemic and complex problems that we all haven’t had the urgency for, certainly myself included.” Passing this off as another “well, we ALL made mistakes” is not the right answer either. Can you tell I’m feeling especially churlish about this? Ugh.

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52 Responses to “Jon Stewart was ‘stunned’ to hear about Louis CK, despite hearing rumors a year ago”

  1. BreeInSEA says:

    He couldn’t have done that much though if he really didn’t know the extent. And most people don’t like to help. Everyone complains about why no one gets involved but rarely does anyone. If he did know the extent, he must have just thought he had some weird thing and the women were willing. A lot of people are afraid to speak up, no one wants to offend, judge or like I said, get involved because then they’re attached to the “dirty”. These women needed stronger supporters back then like they do now. It’s nice seeing a change.

  2. tealily says:

    I feel like the only statement from him that I would have been satisfied with was one where he recounts the horror he feels at having dismissed these accusations for so long and apologized for not believing the women. This is a non-statement. Yawn.

    • K says:

      Same.

      The thing is, when you build a career on being one of the good guys, and then it transpires that you failed to act on it when you were being told someone was sexually abusing women… you don’t go, oh yeah, maybe I should have done more. You go, I f*cked up, and I know it, and in future I’ll do more and use my status to ensure other people do, too.

      No wonder Louis was joking that men are the worst thing that ever happened to women, and that we all constantly play abuser roulette. I mean, he’d know, amirite John?

  3. damejudi says:

    “Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women…”

    Stop right there. There’s the problem. Why can’t it be a great environment for women?

    Because of everyone who’s complicit, either actively or passively, in keeping that environment toxic to women. Looking right at you, JS.

    • Amy Tennant says:

      YES. YES. THANK YOU. Because why, exactly? Because what? We’re not funny? Or because we’re dainty and can’t handle talk of a bawdy nature? Or because we’re thin-skinned and get our feelings hurt and can’t take a joke? Exactly where were you going with that, Mr. Stewart, where comedy, even minus the perverts and the harassers and the predators, on its very best day, was not going to be a great environment for us?
      Ass.

    • Sparkly says:

      Exactly. He knows and doesn’t care, and now he’s making that very apparent. I’m disappointed.

    • ORIGINAL T.C. says:

      He means the environment is at baseline hostile to women and makes it hard for women to survive. So they already start out art a disadvantage so sexual assault/harassment added on is another hellpacked on.

      He tried to be the solution with Supporting Samantha Bee get her own show but he has a huge blind spot when it comes to his friends like Louie CK and Trump voters. Doesn’t get him off but I would rather someone admit their faults than go around slamming victims. In the past, Hollywood used to be like the GOP, attack the victims, stand by your dude bro. Again not excusing Jon. I’m still very mad at him.

    • keenan says:

      basically it’s “do as i say but not as i do” for Jon Stewart.
      basically if you’re a woman and have the audacity to want to do comedy then tough luck honey, this is the male entitled club and you have to deal.
      despicable and infuriating. definitely lost my respect for him.

      • Peeking in says:

        I think we all have a right to be angry on behalf of those women. I also think we’re lashing out at people because they didn’t do what we expected of them. Bottom line is, Jon Stewart is not to be blamed for Louis CK’s perversions. I think I’m our anger, we aren’t being rational or fair. It’s just my opinion, though.

  4. He’s “stunned” that he’s being called out on this.

  5. littlemissnaughty says:

    Can we just … no. It is decidedly NOT complex. It is, in fact, very easy. Simple. You treat people with respect. You don’t make lewd comments, you don’t touch co-workers and especially not subordinates. You have an office. Use it. Don’t corner people at parties or in hotel rooms. You don’t make sexist or racist jokes, you don’t laugh at other peoples’. When someone feels unsafe and they come to you, investigate. Be a DECENT HUMAN BEING FOR F&$% SAKE!

    There’s this idea floating around that consent and relationships are so complicated and that everyone is suddenly so unsure of how to behave. Lemme tell you, women aren’t. We know. We know what not to do. If men don’t, well go educate yourselves. Talk to a woman. Make an effort. Don’t be lazy about it.

    God. WHEN did people forget how to behave like respectful human beings?

    And Jon Stewart needs to educate himself on so many things. That Wyatt Cenac disaster followed by Trump voter empathy? GTFO.

    • tealily says:

      Ah! Thanks for bringing up Wyatt Cenac. THAT’S what originally soured me on Stewart. It’s been so long, I couldn’t even remember.

    • Erinn says:

      I really don’t understand how people are so confused about how to act – or in fear over what they’ve been doing so far. The thing is – nobody is expecting you to only say super uptight, polite, restrained things for the rest of your life. If you’re worried that suddenly your actions can be construed as sketchy/inappropriate – they ALWAYS were. If you’re in doubt – just don’t do it.

      Be professional at work. Don’t make lewd comments or do things that seem at all sexual or manipulative towards coworkers/subordinates/whatever.

      Make sure that if you’re going to make a comment that’s not necessarily ‘appropriate’ it’s between you and someone you really know. Someone who’s sense of humor you understand, and who you have built a good rapport with. And even then you should probably be taking a moment to question the kind of impact it’s going to make – and who is possibly going to overhear it.

      Hell, I know I’ve said some pretty ridiculous things over the years. They’re not punching down things, they’re not racially insensitive, they’re not things that are meant to hurt someone. Mainly they’re sweary things, sarcastic things, dry humor type things. Dumb jokes that don’t rely on a religion, race, gender whatever to land the joke. But I’ve never had to worry about how they were going to be perceived because I make sure to tailor my language to who I’m speaking to. I KNOW my ‘audience’. I know that one of my closest guy friends at work is going to laugh at my attempts at joking about the current political climate. I keep the comments quiet, and do them on break. But I know his political leanings line up with mine, and he gets where I’m coming from. On the other hand – one of my closest female friends here does not follow nerd culture. I’m not about to go make a joke about video games or nerdy movies to her – because I know she’s not going to appreciate it.

      I’ve been in a relationship for 13 years, married for 3. Been together since 9th grade. So while I’m not someone who’s ever had to go pick up at a bar or anything – I do GO to bars, and I see people interacting. There’s such a huge difference between making conversation and building up a back and forth with someone, complimenting them in a non-skeevy way, and seeing where things go – and the kind of people who just outright make lewd comments or keep persisting when the target of their interest clearly isn’t interested in them. I don’t understand why that’s so hard to understand for so many people. You have to keep gauging the conversation, reading cues, and backing off when needed. But that’s in EVERY aspect of life – so how the hell are people functioning at all if they suddenly think that they don’t know how to act?!

      How hard is it to not harass or assault someone? Really. I mean – I manage to get through every day without doing it – why is it that so many people are suddenly terrified that what they’re doing is going to be construed as such. If you’re THAT worried – you need to take a serious look at what you’re doing and WHY you’re so worried, and maybe just not do those things. It’s the kind of basic human interaction that we teach children, and SO many adults are apparently horrified to find out that the shitty things they’re doing are just that – shitty things.

      • littlemissnaughty says:

        Right??? I’ve been thinking about this a lot because not once have I felt uncomfortable at my current job. I’m an assistant, I have 2-3 people I work for at any time and while one was an arrogant assh*le, none have EVER so much as made one offensive comment. I get along great with one of my former bosses, she’s my age. One day she was tired and cranky and just done with everything and made a super dirty joke in my presence. She immediate apologized and told me to always tell her when she says something that’s not okay (she doesn’t) while I kept thinking I FOUND MY SOULMATE I LOVE IT! I told her as much. But that’s exactly what you said, know your audience or at least know that if you overstep, people are allowed to say so.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Been thinking the same thing. It’s NOT THAT HARD NOT TO BE A GARBAGE HUMAN BEING.

  6. HH says:

    You hit all the marks about Jon Stewart and why I’m side eyeing him a little these days. Only a little because I do still have a soft spot for him. So, I may be a bit of an apologist here, but I like what he says. Louis CK was a close friend of his. Personally, I couldn’t imagine hearing these stories about a close guy friend of mine. I would grill him on it and ask for the truth and hope he’s telling me the truth. It’s also true that you don’t want to believe horrible things about someone you love/respected/admired. It’s hard to reconcile all of it. That being said, I would get far more skeptical if the stories/rumors kept piling up. I think that’s where I’m disappointed in Jon. This was not a he said/she said. This was a he said/she said and she said and she said and she said and she said.

    • jwoolman says:

      I would tell Jon in future to see if he can directly ask someone who might be a target for such things if they have had any relevant experiences. If just one woman he actually knew well told him, or at least relayed a story from someone she herself trusted, his reaction a year ago would have been different. He really isn’t a monster. He’s right to dismiss blind rumors in general (most are garbage) but obviously he needs to tune in better to deal with ones like these. There are plenty of women in comedy today who can talk directly about the issues in ways the men in the business might understand.

      The shock for him now is also that the behavior was so obviously completely unacceptable. He very likely assumed it was something mild if there was any truth at all to the rumors. But few men would really think that what CK did was harmless or within a normal range or legal.

      It’s easy to instantly rearrange our thinking about a celebrity we don’t know. But it’s very hard to deal with such rumors and then actual irrefutable evidence about a friend that you respect. Imagine the internal rearrangement any of us would be undergoing if something like this came out about a father, brother, male friend, or any male significant other. Our whole image of that person radically changes. We have to completely rethink all our interactions with him, past, present, and future. It takes time to process and try to figure out. What signs did we miss? (We see that all the time when someone commits suicide seemingly out of the blue also.) When we have real connections with the person involved, we can’t instantaneously change everything in our heads about them.

      I say give Jon some time to sort it out internally and see what he does in the long term.

  7. ceemmcee says:

    I’ll admit I skimmed over this so I could have missed something but here goes a rant anyway.

    I’m SO SO SO sick of dudes saying “… but he wasn’t a creep to me?” or anything else along those lines. WHY WOULD HE HAVE BEEN?! You have the same genitalia (unless of course non-heterosexual). I’ve heard it personally “I can’t believe he would do that to you, he never cross boundaries with me” – my male superiors. Probably because he doesn’t want to bang you.

    MUST BE NICE!

    /rant

  8. SM says:

    They all are ok with stealing their cookies until they are cought with their hand in a cookie jar. That’s it.
    Also a bit off topic but since we are calling out the enablers who turn their eyes the other way (and rightfully so, because without that we can not expect the meaningful change) but how about the silence of Robin Wright? She gained quite some power on the set of House of Cards, produced and directed. If the creators knew about Spacey and his toxic behavior on set so must she. I get upset when men react like Jon stewart here but I get enraged when it is women who contribute to the system of harrasment. I keep thinking about her also because I loved the show and now I tried to put some past episode on and I realized I can not watch it. Not only for him but also because she bugs me now, as if her icy, Machiavellian Claire Underwood is her.

    Sorry for futher hijacking, but this is the only post that made me all warm inside in every long time: http://www.laineygossip.com/harry-styles-new-video-for-kiwi-features-cupcakes-puppies-cute-kids/48390?celebrityId=21455. I suggest posting the link to the video at the bottom of every post on sexual abuse and harrasment.

  9. happyoften says:

    Probably he didn’t know the extent of the abuses. Probably, if he had, it may have changed his mind. Probably he may have been deliberately avoiding looking any further. Probably he feels bad about that. Probably.

    I love Jon Stewart. He helped get me through 8 loooong years of Dubya. His telling Tucker Carlson he wasn’t his monkey is one of my favorite tv moments of all time. Jon Stewart can bite my ass on this one.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      I agree. I also fear that the material he did on a lot of topics (and didn’t do) won’t age that well. He had the field to himself for so many years, there was no competition in what he did. I think that’s why so many didn’t see the issues and why he never had to question what he was doing. Or push himself. Some of the things they did on that show were brilliant but I suspect they could’ve been even better, had he allowed more voices in the writers room.

      • happyoften says:

        Jon stewart has always been more focused on the sheer hypocrisy and stupidity of politicians than righting any social wrongs. He has always had a bit of a blind spot in this regard. He also has gotten a bit of a pass for doing so much of the heavy lifting through the years. For a long time he was the lone voice in the wilderness. I think his contributions are sometimes underestimated. He mentored Jon Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee…

        But, yeah, he ignored a raging abuser, cause it was easier than dealing with it. Being stunned is something that happens the first time you hear about something. This wasn’t the first. Or even the second, methinks. So the faux concern is problematic. I like that he may be double thinking HIS responsibility to take these allegations seriously, and the part he played in making comedy a harder place for women to be. This is a good thing. Stick with it.

        But bite me on the “stunned” charade. Just, no.

  10. Bridget says:

    Did anyone read Marc Maron’s statement? Louis CK was privately denying the accusations, and that since there were no actual names attached he figured it was false.

    But could you imagine if someone you knew for decades, that seemed to be a relatively normal person, was accused of this? Would you immediately write them off? Including when the only woman actually named was vehemently denying? Obviously, I believe the victims. And I believe CK is rightfully done.

  11. Snowflake says:

    I have a lot of respect for Jon Stewart and I loved his skits. I was disappointed with some his comments on Trump. I feel like he thinks we should respect the office of the president even if it is Trump. I know some people that feel that you should respect the office, no matter what. I don’t agree with that.

    I would like to think that if he saw something, he would do something about it. But the problem is, most harrassment is not sexual assault. So I think people don’t know how to handle the comments. For me, I get comments occasionally from a guy at work re my boobs or body. But what do you do? Do you go complain about someone saying you have big breasts? Yeah, they’ll have a talk with him. But then he’ll tell everyone you complained about him and then you’ll get the cold shoulder from people. So what was accomplished? Was it worth complaining about? That’s what goes through my mind. I’m a used car saleswoman, so I have to deal with male bosses and mechanics. I feel like if I complain about something little, then my life is going to be harder day to day. So sometimes I let comments go, because I don’t think it’s going to do any good. I just tell him to shut up or ignore it.

    In men’s case, I think they have this bro code. You don’t “rat out” other men. Which is a damn shame

  12. MizNJ says:

    Two comments: I hate hate hate hate hate that Stewart’s equating CK’s behaviour with addictions. It’s not an addiction. It’s toxic masculinity, abuse of power and being an entitled asshole enabled by men who dismiss women as ‘hysterical’ and protect their buddies. And making CK an addict means he sees CK as helpless to his impulses and so a victim. CK’s not the victim here.

    And, ‘we could have done more?’ No, you did nothing. More than nothing would’ve been listening to the women who were telling you what was happening.

    I’m with you Kaiser.

    • jwoolman says:

      How do professionals talk about flashers in general? That’s basically what CK is, he’s just a private flasher, flashing unwilling colleagues in his private office. It really isn’t at all normal and the ones who do it seem to have trouble stopping even when it’s hurting themselves.

      I do think there’s some connection with addiction there. Or is compulsion treated differently? We don’t absolve people of responsibility because they are addicts, they still have free will, but we just realize that it’s not as simple as deciding to avoid a dangerous route on the way to work. Whatever, CK had to know this was damaging behavior and yet he continued doing it and his team kept covering up the objections (which they wouldn’t have needed to do if the women really said “ok” as he fantasizes). I’m not familiar with his work (I’ve only seen short clips, not my cup of tea), but those who are have said there were signs that he wanted people to know (and maybe stop him?).

      • MizNJ says:

        I agree that the compulsion to self-harm aspect is similar to addiction. But flashing only works if there’s a victim – it’s predatory. The harm that addicts do to those around them is collateral damage. The harm that sexual predators do is deliberate damage meant to make the predator feel powerful. CK’s not the victim.

        We can be sad that he’s disappointing and problematic, but again that makes us the victims, not CK.

        And I’ve read that too – that his movie can really be seen as a cry for help. If that’s the case, he’d be perceived as more sympathetic than Weinstein. People are complex, and it can be true that CK was fun and charming and lovely and a predator all at the same time. I just feel really strongly that we not conflate predatory, abusive behaviour with alcoholism or drug use.

  13. smee says:

    He should have practiced his response/lie before he went on – surely he realized he would be asked about it. Mark Maron was much more savvy in his response/lie.

    In both videos he lumps LCK’s behavior in with other compulsive behaviors – which might be true, but seems a lot like deflecting, to me.

    Pretty disappointed in all these white male comedians speaking out (or not) about this issue.

  14. Annie says:

    Men in comedy will protect each other at all costs. The man who speaks up against something like this is very rare. They all have this culture where they laugh at each other’s douchey jokes and share sex stories, they talk about women they’ve had sex with like they’re objects, and it’s generally a very sexist environment. Men already protect each other as it is. In the comedy world is worse “You didn’t see anything, you don’t know anything.” Anyone who pretends to be shocked at these allegations is lying. If the average online gossip reader knew about Louis, Weinstein and company then how come the actual people close to them didn’t?

    • jwoolman says:

      All of them? I find that hard to believe. It just takes a few to loom large and affect a lot of people, so it can seem like all. But it really isn’t. Men do have to learn to shut down the obnoxious behavior of other men, but that takes a lot of courage and many don’t have enough. Women have to learn to speak up regardless of the idiot reactions from some. If we remain silent and even politely smile or laugh – how are the good ones supposed to know how damaging it is?

      And I read plenty of celebrity gossip but didn’t know about the Weinstein rumors. Probably because I didn’t know who he was… Not into movies and not good with names. Really, we can’t assume that everybody knows exactly what we know because they usually don’t.

  15. Amelie says:

    I dunno, he’s not the only guy who has acted astonished at all these stories coming out and saying he wish he could have done more. Rumors are called rumors for a reason. Unsubstantiated and you have no idea whether they are true or not. What are you supposed to do with a bunch of rumors? Report them? You are just spreading more rumors. If you are asked about them, you say what you know “they are rumors, just people looking for attention.”

    If he heard stories from women who personally told him they were sexually harassed by Louis CK/other men in the industry and brushed them off, I might think differently. But really, how many women confide in their male coworkers about sexual harassment at work? I wouldn’t! I’m not about to cancel every single man who says they had no idea and always got along with that person because… that would be canceling the majority of them. So many people are sketchy behind closed doors and have alternate lives. Some are way more obvious than others (Weinstein) and maybe Louis CK was obvious but I really didn’t pay attention to him so I had no idea. In fact, when they first announced Louis CK I got him confused with JK Simmons because I get my K initials confused.

  16. Penelope says:

    Stewart’s always struck me as a smug a-hole and he’s extremely condescending to the audience member questioning him here.

    BTW when he claims, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” in the first video, he then clearly looks downward for a few seconds–body language that generally means, “I’m lying.”

    • Katie says:

      You can’t possibly know for sure what he was thinking.

      I agree that he came across as dismissive and arrogant and he could have been more polite. But I don’t think his reaction was unreasonable. If someone came up to me in a public forum and told me about some rumors about a friend of mine that were news to me, I’d shut them down too.

  17. catapostrophe says:

    Above: “Louis CK was allowed to do this for so many years …”

    For how many years, exactly? Do we know?

  18. kibbles says:

    Stewart was one of my favorite comedians in my 20s. Like most liberals my age, we spent most of our college or grad school days watching The Daily Show religiously. Stewart was awesome in the role, and I really can’t see anyone else replacing him. Trevor Noah absolutely is not the person to fill his shoes, which is why I stopped watching. I also side-eyed the fact that he even chose Trevor Noah, who has his own history of insulting women and African Americans. However, Stewart did introduce some great comedians including John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carell, all of whom seem to be pretty decent guys in their personal lives. So, YES, I do still have a soft spot for Stewart as do many of you. I completely understand. That being said, Stewart is not the type to rock the boat. He’s good at what he does within his perimeters as a mainstream liberal comedian, which was good in the 90s and 00s, but the world has changed since then. More people are demanding to see women and people of color on the screen, and more young people are demanding revolutionary change apart from the status quo. That is why a large number of young people were attracted to Bernie Sanders, and will continue to be attracted to politicians and activists who challenge established political and social norms. We need men who will stand up to sexual harassment, not ignore it simply because they aren’t personally impacted by it. I’ll always be a Jon Stewart fan, and will cherish the wonderful memories I had of his show when I was in college, but I believe he made the right decision to retire because his time in the sun has past.

  19. Valiantly Varnished says:

    He’s so full of s*it. He was flat out asked about it and not only laughed the question off but made of the question even being asked. Just admit you knew and didn’t take it seriously. This faux ignorance doesn’t fly. Especially considering his being asked about it is literally on tape.

  20. Izzy says:

    About 23 years ago when I was in college, Jon Stewart came to our campus to perform stand up for a student event. The entire basis of his act was that he was a short, bitter Jewish man who had lousy luck with women because he was short and that’s why he was bitter. (The emphasis on his religion was his, and no I don’t know why.)

    Looking back on that now, I guess he never thought that highly of women, so why wouldn’t he defend his creepy friend from such SCURRILOUS accusations. 🙄

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