Colbert was addressing the camera on the controversial issue of the U.S. president’s banning of certain media outlets from press briefings:
“And the root of all this conflict is that Donald Trump calls any story he doesn’t like ‘fake news.’”
Upon hearing the term “fake news,” Colbert’s buddy Stewart popped up from under the host’s desk. The crowd cheered in surprise, and once things quieted down, the two men went for a few soft laughs.
“It’s always great to see you but I gotta ask,” Colbert said, “How did you get under my desk?
“I have a tunnel,” the former host of the Daily Show replied.
“A tunnel that I’ve, uh, built, straight from my farm.”
Shortly after that Colbert offered Jon Stewart a chair and the two comedians seated themselves at the desk. The Late Show host’s first question set the tone for the remainder of the nine-minute bit.
“Jon, what do you think about Trump banning mainstream media from that briefing?” Colbert asked.
“I can’t believe the guy’s got the balls,” Stewart replied. “Let me say this, I can’t believe the guy’s got the BALLS to get away with that. Trump lies more in one press conference than CNN does in a year.”
As evidence, Stewart brought up several clips in which he said the president was lying. One such clip was of Trump at a press conference, claiming the U.S. murder rate is the highest it’s been in 47 years. In the clip, Trump noted the media’s surprise at that statistic, something he attributed to reporters not doing their jobs.
Stewart called bunk on that: “No, they were SURPRISED…Because it’s not true. It’s now the lowest it’s been in 45 years.”
As it happens, Trump’s own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, stated at a conference on Tuesday that U.S. crimes rates “remain near historic lows” and pointed out that murder rates are half of what they were in 1980.
Asked by Colbert if he thought the president was lying on purpose, Stewart said yes. Asked by the host for proof of that assertion, Stewart said:
“Because he constantly says the phrase ‘believe me.’”
People telling the truth don’t need to use such assurances, the comedian said. He then rolled an edited clip of the president spitting out the phrase, rapid fire.
But the real message of the bit came next. Colbert asked his friend his true opinion on Trump banning representatives of the media from briefings. To this, Stewart replied: “I say stop your whining, press.”
He then asked Colbert for permission to address the media directly, at which point Stewart turned to the camera and proceeded — as Quartz put it, “like a good friend offering relationship advice” — to compare the spat between the president and the media to a couple breaking up.
“Hey, hey guys. Hey media,” the comedian begins. “So I heard, uh, Donald Trump broke up with you. Stings a little, doesn’t it? Finally thought you’d met your match. A blabbermouth who’s as thin-skinned and narcissistic as you are.”
After stating the media should be happy to be rid of Trump, Jon Stewart continued:
“It is time for you to get your groove back, media. ‘Cause let’s face facts, you’ve kinda let yourself go a little bit for these last few years. Put on a few pundits. Obsessing, 24 hours a day, seven days a week about this ONE guy.”
Pulling no punches, the political commentator put the crowd — and presumably, society at large — in the place of a concerned friend watching another friend make a romantic mistake:
“And the whole time you’re chasin’ after Donnie…The rest of us are thinkin’…‘Can’t you see he’s an asshole?’”
Summing up his case, Stewart suggested the press should stop fixating on the new president and do its supposed job — accurately reporting on the news.
“This breakup with Donald Trump has given you, the media, an amazing opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. Instead of worrying about whether Trump is un-American or if he thinks you’re the enemy, or if he’s being mean to you, or if he’s gonna let you go back into the briefings…Do something for yourself. Self-improvement! Take up a hobby.”
He paused, grinned, and then said: “I recommend journalism.”
But does Jon Stewart actually think the media will shape up? He made his thoughts on that one clear in the bit’s closing.
“So you really think the media is gonna take this opportunity for self-reflection and get better at their jobs?” Colbert asks.
“I really do,” Stewart said with apparent earnestness, then adding: “Believe me.”
Watch the entire clip below: