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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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No joke: Jon Stewart voted Republican, at least once

June 21, 2011 | 10:58 am

Johnstewart Jon Stewart may have surprised some people when he told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that he voted for Republican George H.W. Bush for president in 1988. “There was an integrity about him that I respected greatly,” Stewart told the Fox host.

Not so greatly that he made Bush 41 immune to his “Daily Show” barbs. As Stewart said repeatedly to the seemingly incredulous Fox host, “I am a comedian first."

Stewart’s Comedy Central program came on about seven years after the elder Bush left office, so he did not give the 41st president a full satiric working over. But over the years, he lobbed a few gentle darts at the retired chief executive.

When Bush went skydiving in 2004 to celebrate his 80th birthday, Stewart showed the clip. “OK,” he said, “we’re sorry we called you a wimp. Let it go!”

More than once, Stewart lumped the elder Bush in with the last half-dozen presidents in segments that castigated the entire group for failing to make the U.S. energy independent.

Around the time of Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Stewart showed the incoming president meeting with predecessors Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Stewart said it looked like a “World’s Greatest Grandpa” competition, declaring Bush 41 the winner because “his pockets are filled with hard rock candy and penny whistles.”

Fox's Wallace invited Stewart on the program Sunday to challenge the comedian's suggestion that the Fox News channel functions as a conservative political organ more than a news outlet. Stewart neatly rebuffed Wallace’s arguments, saying ideology was only a secondary motivation for him.

"My comedy is informed by ideology, there is no question," he said. "But I am not an ideologue."
As I was looking for Stewart’s previous “Daily Show” mentions of Bush the elder, I ran into plenty of clips that would tend to back his comedy-first claim.

To cite just one: a June 25, 2009, segment in which the comedian contrasted Obama’s lofty election talk about transparency with his administration’s record of withholding information and documents, including background about a government eavesdropping program.

Stewart had one other quip for Wallace about why he voted for Bush. The then-vice president's opponent was then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Referencing an infamous Dukakis photo faux pas, Stewart said: “There’s something about tiny people in helmets.”

-- James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: Jon Stewart of the Daily Show debated Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." He said comedy drove his show, not ideology. Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3 / "The Daily Show"