Jon Stewart Takes Down Roger Ailes and Donald Trump in His First Daily Show-Style Rant in 11 Months

Makes surprise appearance on Late Show

Headshot of Jason Lynch

Ever since Jon Stewart stepped down as host of The Daily Show last August, his fans have been begging him to return to late-night and deliver his brilliant, incisive political takedowns, especially in this year's over-the-top presidential race.

While Stewart has mostly stayed out of the spotlight, he couldn't resist weighing in on two of the most seismic events to hit the Republican Party in modern times, both of which happened just hours apart: Donald Trump's officially accepting the Republican nomination for President at the Republican National Convention Thursday night and Roger Ailes' stunning resignation as chairman and CEO of Fox News two weeks after he was sued for sexual harassment.

So Thursday night, Stewart briefly stepped in for pal Stephen Colbert, during his live broadcast of the Late Show With Stephen Colbert. He slipped on a suit jacket and clip-on tie and settled in at Colbert's desk to deliver his first late-night political rant in 11 months.

Stewart, who also made a cameo appearance on Monday's Late Show, popped up after Colbert talked about Ailes' departure–and asked the camera to pan away so he could celebrate offscreen. Stewart also indulged in a bit of off-camera jubilation, before unleashing his own version of Throwback Thursday.

"I was wondering if I could just maybe talk about the election for a little bit," he told Colbert, asking the Late Show host to step aside so he could take his seat.

First, Stewart talked about the just-concluded Republican National Convention, observing that "the Republicans appear to have a very clear plan for America: One, jail your political opponent. Two, inject Rudy Giuliani with a speedball-and-Red Bull enema, and, three, spend the rest of the time scaring the holy bejesus out of everybody."

He quickly pivoted to the true focus of his ire: Fox News host Sean Hannity—whom Stewart nicknamed "Lumpy"—and his hypocrisy in calling President Obama elitist while overlooking and/or praising similar traits in Trump.

"Here's where we are: Either Lumpy and his friends are lying about being bothered by thin-skinned, authoritarian, less-than-Christian readers of prompters being president, or they don't care. As long as it's their thin-skinned, prompter authoritarian tyrant narcissist. You just want that person to give you your country back because you feel that you're this country's rightful owners. There's only one problem with that: This country isn't yours! You don't own it. It never was. There is no real America. You don't own it. You don't own patriotism, you don't own Christianity, you sure as hell don't own respect for the bravery and sacrifice of military, police and firefighters. Trust me! I saw a lot of people on the convention floor in Cleveland with their Blue Lives Matter rhetoric who either remained silent or actively fought against the 9/11 First Responders Bill Reauthorization. [The Zadroga Act, which Stewart had lobbied for last fall.] I see you, and I see your bullshit."

At that point, Colbert popped up to remind Stewart that they were being broadcast live on CBS (though the Late Show was obviously on a seven-second delay, because the profanity was bleeped on-air). The former host apologized, explaining, "My fault. Never been on a television show with stakes before!" He wrapped up his remarks by noting, "Those fighting to be included in the ideal of equality are not being divisive. Those fighting to keep those people out, are."

After the bit, which also included a swipe at his old punching bag, Arby's, Stewart pulled off his clip-on tie and dropped it like a microphone.

It was Stewart's second Late Show appearance this week. On Monday, his cameo, alongside the return of Colbert's Colbert Show alter ego, helped give Late Show a ratings boost as it kicked off two weeks of live, post-convention broadcasts.

Shortly before Thursday's show began, Colbert hinted at Stewart's return by tweeting a photo of the duo taking in Donald Trump's speech.

Stewart serves as a Late Show executive producer, but has mostly remained behind the scenes since Colbert took over as host last September. He first appeared on-air Dec. 10, as part of his successful campaign to get Congress to renew the Zadroga Act, which authorizes health benefits to 9/11 first responders.

The Late Show will broadcast live next week as well, following the Democratic National Convention.


@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.