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'Daily Show' women: Jon Stewart is not a sexist

Daily show women 
“The Daily Show” is not known for showing its inner workings. In fact, host Jon Stewart and the staff of the Comedy Central show rarely participate in stories about the program or their process, saying they want the comedy to speak for itself. That’s why the 1,092-word letter posted on “The Daily Show” website Tuesday morning was particularly remarkable.

In it, 31 female employees of the program shot back at accusations leveled in a piece on Jezebel.com asserting that women on the show have to contend with a boys-club atmosphere. The June 23 story quoted former female correspondents, most of whom worked on the program in the early 2000s, saying they found it “a frustrating and alienating experience.” Noting that Olivia Munn is the first new female correspondent in seven years, writer Irin Carmon described an atmosphere in which women felt their opinions were disregarded and emotional vulnerability made them a target. She quoted an unnamed former executive who said "there's a huge discrepancy between the Jon Stewart who goes on TV every night and the Jon Stewart who runs The Daily Show with joyless rage."

Not so, according to the female staffers who signed the open letter, which was addressed to "People Who Don't Work Here." “We must admit it is entertaining to be the subjects of such a vivid and dramatic narrative,” they wrote. “However, while rampant sexism at a well-respected show makes for a great story, we want to make something very clear: the place you may have read about is not our office.

“The Daily Show isn't a place where women quietly suffer on the sidelines as barely tolerated tokens. On the contrary: just like the men here, we're indispensable. We generate a significant portion of the show's creative content and the fact is, it wouldn't be the show that you love without us.”

The women noted that they make up 40% of the roughly 90 employees on the staff. “Jon's rule is: the strongest idea and the funniest joke win every single time, no matter who pitches it -- woman or man, executive producer or production assistant,” they wrote.

As for Stewart himself:

He's also generous, humble, genuine, compassionate, fair, supportive, exacting, stubborn, goofy, hands-on, driven, occasionally infuriating, ethical, down-to-earth and--a lot of people don't know this--surprisingly funny (for a guy brimming with “joyless rage”). How else to describe him? What's the word that means the opposite of sexist? That one.

A sidebar listing things Stewart has supported the staff through included “9/11,”  “Pet emergencies,” “The re-election of George Bush” and “Inadequately researched blog posts that cling to a predetermined narrative about sexism at The Daily Show.”

Carmon’s response on Jezebel: “I just wish the show had agreed to answer questions or make anyone available to talk when I approached them for comment before the piece was published.”

-- Matea Gold


Photo credit: "The Daily Show"

Comments () | Archives (20)

The TDS house has been well known as a family shop - perhaps had Jezebel actually did the research required before writing that hit piece, they wouldn't need to have asked the Daily Show to comment on something that didn't exist.

I think the most irritating element of that original piece, was the implication that somehow women didn't naturally trend towards "political humor" because they were women. That's more sexist to me.

Considering that he had Huckabee on to discuss the issue of abortion rights, I'm still trying to see how Jezebel could consider that program "sexist" after taking on that controversial topic.

If that author is surprised about the anger from the female staff, they should see what the anger level is of the female fans, such as myself.

And... no one feels like this is a "sign your name and be in the picture or forfeit whatever hope you had here" situation?

Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks

Right, K Love, because Samantha Bee really seems like the kinda chick who would shut up and take it.
That was sarcasm, btw.

Heh, heh: "hands on..."

That aside, a pretty weak, obviously heavily organized effort in defensive P.R. What, no males in the group to back the gals up? A handfull of women from the show backing their boss would have been more convincing.

I should also note, I'm a man and in my decades working for different companies I've noticed that the most misoginistic (sic - sorry...) of my male bosses always hired LOTS of women. It had nothing to do with their views on equality or the ability of women; they simply enjoyed the paternal aspect of being "Daddy" at work.

The worst part about the article is that it basically ensures Olivia Munn has to be kept on, and she really is terrible for the job. She's completely incapable of delivering a joke in a serious voice - a requirement for The Daily Show.

I read both the original Jezebel article AND the entire response letter. The response letter was extremely disturbing. I actually think that the Women Employees' Response Letter is a stronger indication of the sexism of the Daily Show than anything that I read in the Jezebel article.

I agree with those who think it would have been CAREER SUICIDE for any of the women who currently work at The Daily Show to decline to sign that letter. (By sign, I mean put their name on the online copy of the letter.) The very presence of that letter reflects a culture of subtle intimidation. The names of those women are now on a public list claiming that Jon Stewart - THEIR BOSS - is wonderful and non-sexist. Maybe Glenn Beck can follow Stewart's lead and have his black employees - all two of them - write about how much he just LOVES black people.

It was the first thing that I thought – that the letter was a brilliant piece of coercive propaganda. No employee should ever feel pressured (directly or indirectly) by agents of their employer to sign a letter claiming his or her current employer has never been guilty of discrimination. I hope the women who signed that letter realize that if they have experienced discrimination or if they experience discrimination IN THE FUTURE, and if they ever then want to file a discrimination suit against Stewart or the Daily Show that this letter will be used as evidence in court against them.

That’s the ultimate purpose of that letter: to preemptively prevent lawsuits and to control the current female employees. Those women just signed a document giving the men who work at The Daily Show free reign to be as sexist as they want because the women have already claimed IN WRITING that sexism at the show doesn't exist. Those boys can have lots of fun now because the women they work with just signed their rights away.

The intimidation would have been subtle, but very real. The existence of the letter and signatures is evidence of this. What would have happened to a woman employee who refused to sign that letter? She would have been told that it was fine that there was no pressure, but her name would be discussed with the producers and the legal department as a potential problem and she would be dismissed within two years. Not too soon because it would be too obvious. But she wouldn't last. Women aren't stupid. Every woman who signed that letter knew that it was an illusion that she could have chosen not to sign it. The women will now claim that they were not pressured to sign the letter. They have to. It's interesting that there is no reference to the women who refused to sign the letter. That's because THEY DON'T EXIST. The kinds of women who would have refused to sign that letter had already been fired or had left the show.

In fact, this is ingenious - and evil - new corporate policy. Maybe some lower-level BP employees, who are trying to hold onto jobs in a bad economy, can write a letter claiming that BP really, really cares about the environment. Really. That would be really convincing, too. Hey, maybe some of the lower-level employees at Goldman Sachs can write letters talking about how fiscally responsible their employer is.

Basically, the letter was the equivalent of George Bush having Condoleeza Rice come out during his administration to sign a letter about how much he respected Black women. She wouldn't have been able to refuse, and she was one of the most powerful women in the world. What is a production assistant at a tv show during a recession going to do when somebody asks her to sign a letter like that? She signs. She has to.

I’m an African American woman so I’m imagining a policy in which racist companies that have driven out people of color get the remaining people of color to write a letter to the media saying that the company isn’t racist. If they don’t sign, they’re in line for the chopping block. Sexist companies can do the same with women of all races. This is a scary concept and legally airtight. How can you file a suit against a company after signing such a document? You can't.
At least, I can feel fairly confident that no black women - 1 at most - signed the Stewart letter because I can't imagine the Daily Show actually hiring a black woman to do anything.

What would have been convincing is if WOMEN WHO ARE NOT CURRENTLY ON STEWART’S/THE DAILY SHOW’S PAYROLL, but who had a good experience working with the men there wrote a letter like this. They didn’t.

The original Jezebel article had some pretty convincing evidence, though nothing as convincing as the letter. The Daily Show could have responded by really investigating its gender politics and policies. Instead, it sent out the women employees to defend the boys who now have no reason to question their behavior and have been given carte blanche BY THE WOMEN THEMSELVES to be even more sexist in the future.

The most disturbing part of the letter is when they say that the Jezebel article is scaring away young women by discussing sexism. Actually, experiencing SEXISM itself is much scarier than reading about it. If I were a young woman, being pressured to sign that letter would have been MUCH scarier than reading the Jezebel article. Apparently the women who work at the Daily Show think that sweeping sexism under the rug is the best way to deal with it. Congrats. Mission accomplished.

Olivia Munn is also a problem for The Daily Show’s claim that there is no sexism in their workplace. Munn is very pretty, but she is not very funny. At all. And I’m not one of those people who thinks pretty women can’t be funny. They can, but The Daily Show didn’t hire those women. They hired Munn. Her response to feminist critics is that they should, “Walk it off, bitch.” That’s an exact quote. I remember thinking that it was the kind of statement that Jon Stewart might make fun of if he hadn’t just hired the woman who made it. Then I read the Jezebel article and the response letter, and I realized that Munn is the rule rather than exception at The Daily Show. Munn’s quote says a lot about the kind of women the Daily Show likes to hire – Women who are anti-feminist and will side with men against other women.

I enjoy the Daily Show, but Jezebel wins this battle, and women ALL WOMEN, especially The Daily Show Employees now lose. In fact, by writing the letter they have created the conditions for a MORE sexist workplace because they already gave the boys their legally admissible get-out-of-jail free card/letter.

Jon Stewart is even smarter, and more sexist, than I thought.

(Super90 the fact that you call women “chicks” tells us all we need to know about your gender awareness.)

Unpaid interns?

Hey..people will take shots at anyone true or not for the publicity and to create a firestorm. Hey John...have you groped anyone lately?? Called anyone a Jew??!! Oh wait you are a jew!! Well..i guess they can't hang that one on you..Here's one..two goyims walk into a Bris...

I think you sized up the situation very well, K Love.

Looks like a white girl sorority, bar one. Also, can any of 'em afford a pair of shoes?

Remember the days when media had to have ALL of their facts in-line BEFORE publishing?

Funny is funny,these people have a great show,cant think why anyone would want to do them harm...Oh yea,BECAUSE they have a great show.40% really?sounds more lady friendly than the vast majority.Keep after the dumb asses Stewart.

@ron c. it's 100 degrees in new york this week. women wear sandals to work, find something else to rag on.

@ ron c.
women dont need shoes to work in the kitchen.... oO.
i kid, i kid.

but for real wut a wierd thing to point out.

I read the entire Daily Show Women Employees’ Letter. It is UNCONSCIONABLE for the show to ask women employees to sign a document that states that no gender or sex discrimination has ever occurred in their workplace and that their boss is a wonderful person. Unless dozens of women spontaneously decided to write and sign the exact same letter at the exact same moment, then somebody wrote that letter and asked others to sign it. When they did that, this constituted a subtle form of intimidation because every person who REFUSED to sign it would be identified as a potential problem – specifically a potential lawsuit. Who would refuse to sign the letter? Nobody who wanted to keep her job.

The Daily Show Women’s Letter is disturbing because it’s the kind of document that women employees -especially lower-level ones – would feel pressured to sign or worry about losing their jobs. Any woman who believed that there would be no consequences for not signing that letter – as I’m sure they were assured – would be an idiot. That letter is a greater indictment of sexism at the Daily Show than the initial article, and that story needs to be investigated.

We need to focus on the problem of an employer of ANY race or gender pressuring employees of ANY race or gender to sign a document claiming that they have never experienced discrimination. The women of The Daily Show never should have been asked to sign that document. Their names are on the internet. If one of them were to ever file a gender or sex discrimination lawsuit against the show, even for future discrimination, this letter could be used to discredit her. That letter preemptively inhibits future discrimination litigation, which I believe was its purpose.

I love how some people read this article and immediately assume that this response letter is a villainous plot. None of us report to have any inside information on the subject, we're simply looking at the surface and superimposing our own preexisting biases on it.

I ask, is it more likely that a group of women working at the Daily Show read the original article, were appalled at the inaccuracy of it and decided to gather their colleagues and create a unified response OR a sexist patriarchal dictator crafted an ingenious plot to coerce and manipulate 40% of the staff into signing a public document asserting something they all know to be false in order to prevent future legal action?

When presented with two potential truths lacking in direct evidence for either, the logical choice would be to side with the simplest explanation, or at least not write a thousand word essay rallying people to the side of the least logical.

If you want to find something bad enough, you'll eventually find it, real or not.

D.B. That's one of the most paranoid and unsubstantiated rants I've ever read. It's full of nothing more than straw-man arguments, hypotheticals and it's all too personal.

Bill Maher is...not one female on that production staff and he's always spewing some kind of hate towards women.

KMF nails it with Occam's Razor. Another way to express it: When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.

D.B., I'm sorry for the pain you've obviously lived through, but you won't help yourself if you persist in spinning elaborate conspiracy theories. In a media-savvy business in the media capital of the world, the kind of coercion you imagine would be utterly impossible to pull off without dissent, and nobody would try. If Jezebel's take were really true, Stewart would ignore it and the "story" would fade quickly away. He wouldn't risk a backfire by trying to gin up something like this.


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