Jon Stewart has spoken up about Louis C.K. for the first time since a New York Times report revealed that the comedian allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with at least five women over the years. Stewart made an appearance on The Today Show on Tuesday to promote his upcoming HBO comedy special, Night of Too Many Stars, which will benefit programs for autistic education and services, and at the end of the segment, co-host Matt “No Segue Necessary” Lauer asked Stewart to respond to the reports of C.K.’s behavior, which C.K. has since admitted are true.
“Stunned,” said Stewart after a moment’s hesitation, before comparing C.K.’s behavior to that of a gambler or alcoholic. “You give your friends the benefit of the doubt. I try to think of it in terms of—I’ve had friends who have compulsions, and who have done things, gambling or drinking or drugs, and we’ve lost some of them. Some of them have died, and you always find yourself back to a moment of, ‘Did I miss something?’ or ‘Could I have done more?’ ”
Stewart noted that comedy “on its best day” is not a hospitable environment for women in general and suggested that “You get mad at yourself for laughing it off or thinking, ‘That didn’t happen.’ ”
Of course, that’s exactly what Stewart did in May 2016 when, during the Q&A portion of a live podcast taping, a University of Chicago student asked him about the then-rumors about C.K. Stewart acknowledged that he had learned about the allegations more than a year ago during that taping, remembering how he responded at the time by laughing it off. “He’s always been a gentleman to me,” Stewart recalled of his reaction, “which, again, speaks to the blindness that I think a man has, which is, like, ‘Hey, he’s a good guy, what are you talking about?’ ”
Though it’s a little unclear, Stewart then suggests that he and his team looked into the allegations at that point but that “we were all assured, no, and we took somebody’s word for it, and maybe that’s an error on our part.”
At the end, Stewart returned again to the idea of C.K. as comparable to a drug user in need of an intervention. That’s an odd comparison, considering that, as Slate’s Susan Matthews has reported, that “sex addiction” is not comparable to drug addiction, and that C.K. is not the victim here; for years, he took advantage of his position of power, not only using women’s discomfort for his own sexual gratification but also lying about it just weeks ago. Up until very recently, in fact, he was going to be part of Stewart’s Night of Too Many Stars, until HBO dropped him from the program.