Jon Stewart takes a deep dive on a number of issues, from gun control to COVID-19 safety protocols, on his new Apple TV+ series. His remarks on climate change, however, have left some of his fans feeling a bit perplexed.
In a teaser clip from the March 10 episode of “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” the host appears to offer a surprising (if qualified) defense of fossil fuel companies.
“A hundred of these companies create 70% of our global emissions,” Stewart says in the clip, which clocks in at about seven and a half minutes and can be viewed below. “Wouldn’t it be better to hold our noses, to not villainize them, to understand that no industry is ever going to cut its own throat and take away its profits? How do we bribe them?”
Based on the isolated footage, it’s unclear whether the former “Daily Show” host was merely attempting to play devil’s advocate with his suggestions. Later in the clip, he talks about the unlikelihood of fossil fuel companies ever being held to account ― and suggests instead trying to leverage the industry’s desire for profit in a way that would get those companies to join in on the transition to a more sustainable world:
Fossil fuel companies have so much power in this country, and they have the power, unfortunately, to destabilize the governments that would do the most to make that transition. And so what I’m saying is, co-opt whatever their greed principle is, to make it so that they own this transition ― or at least part of it ― so that they’re no longer incentivized to oppose it. Because that accountability never happens, because behind closed doors, there’s too much money involved. And so in some ways, we have to bribe them.
Still, the clip garnered a blistering response from many viewers on social media. Several people pointed out that Stewart’s guests for the episode included Shell CEO Ben van Beurden, whose talking points went mostly unchallenged.
“No, fossil fuel companies need to be taken over and dismantled at gunpoint,” Noah Weston, better known as the rapper and songwriter Soul Khan, tweeted. “They have been genocidally destructive after knowingly lying about the climate crisis for decades … Fossil fuel extraction is going to be the most murderous enterprise in human history.”
“‘The Problem with Jon Stewart’ is the most unintentionally perfect name for the whole program,” filmmaker Jesse Hawken tweeted.
Stewart’s show was initially touted as his long-awaited return to television after a seven-year hiatus, but the series has drawn mixed reviews since its premiere last fall.
Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall described show as being “stuck in the past,” while NPR’s Eric Deggans wrote that it feels “like a stitched-together pastiche of items from Stewart’s old show and a few other programs he inspired.” At Vox, Constance Grady wrote a consideration of “The Problem” that doubled as an essay on how the brand of liberalism Stewart popularized at “The Daily Show” has aged poorly.