Five women accused Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct in a New York Times report published Thursday, and as has been the case with other exposés about alleged predatory behavior, the next question is: Who knew, and when did they know?
In 2016, Jon Stewart was the guest at a live taping of David Axelrod’s podcast, The Axe Files, at the University of Chicago, when a member of the audience asked him about C.K., the last person Stewart interviewed on The Daily Show—specifically, about the allegations of sexual harassment against C.K. Stewart seemed pretty surprised by the question and said he wasn’t aware of the accusations, noting that he’d worked with C.K. for 30 years and calling him “a wonderful man.” (The exchange, which resurfaced on Twitter via actor James Urbaniak, begins around the 1:13:50 mark in the video below.)
The audience member acknowledged that the rumors were, at the time of The Daily Show's taping, just rumors, rather than a legal case like the one against Bill Cosby, and tried to pivot to ask Stewart instead about what role he thinks comedians should play in cases like these. However, the discussion was abruptly cut short by a seemingly annoyed Axelrod.
Here’s how the entire exchange went down:
Audience member: I wanted to ask you about the last interview on your show, which I think was Louis C.K.
Audience member: So from my memory, I think that was after some of the rumors about Louis C.K.’s alleged harassment of female comedians—
Audience member: —had sort of started to come out.
Stewart: Wait, what?
Audience member: It was after Jen Kirkman had talked about her knowledge of Louis C.K.’s alleged harassment of comedians—at least people interpreted it that way—and an article on Gawker, I believe, about it. I just wanted to know—if this is the first you’re hearing of it, maybe I already got my answer, but there wasn’t discussion about this on the show.
Stewart: [laughs] Wait, wait, wait. I’m a little lost. So the internet said Louis harassed women.
Audience member: So there was first a Gawker article and then a couple of tweets by people—
Stewart: [laughs] You know who you’re talking to, right?
Audience member: It’s a fair point that internet rumors are not court cases or anything. I just wanted to know if there was any sort of discussion about that on the show, if that was a thing on your radar.
Stewart: No. I didn’t see the tweets.
Audience member: Or Jen Kirkman’s podcast about—
Stewart: I apologize. I’m not that connected to that world. I don’t know what you’re talking about but—I can’t really answer. I don’t know what to say.
Audience member: I think a lot of people at the time didn’t know what that was. Again, the internet is not for sure, but there have been comedians who have taken strong stances on Bill Cosby without certain knowledge, from Bill Maher to Hannibal Buress. I just wondered if you could talk about the role of comedians—
Axelrod: But as you pointed out, the Bill Cosby case actually is a legal case.
Audience member: It is now but it wasn’t when Bill Maher and Hannibal Buress were talking about it. Maybe you can speak to the role of comedians—
Stewart: All I can tell you is I’ve worked with Louis for 30 years and he’s a wonderful man and person and I’ve never heard anything about this. We’ve all known Bill Cosby was a prick for a long time, so I don’t know what to tell you. But I didn’t know about the sexual assault—
Audience member: Not sexual assault, but—
Axelrod: Sir, appreciate your question. Thank you. And let’s say thanks to Jon Stewart.