A Change.org petition calling for Jon Stewart to be chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates to serve as a moderator for a 2016 presidential debate is closing in on 200,000 signatures. A post on Change.org’s official blog noted that it is currently the fastest growing petition on the site.
Stewart stepped down earlier this month from his long-held position as the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, a program that began as pure satire of the news but gravitated towards taking on an editorial tone over time. In the past, various studies and polls have found that Americans trusted Stewart’s Daily Show broadcasts more than traditional news outlets like MSNBC and Bloomberg.
“Jon Stewart is more than qualified to tackle the moderating job. Mr. Stewart has interviewed 15 heads of state, 22 members of the United States Cabinet, 32 members of the United States Senate, 7 members of the United States House of Representatives, and scores of other political leaders from this country and around the world while establishing himself as the most trusted person in (satirical) news,” read the Change.org petition started by Stewart fan Mariel Waters from New Jersey.
The petition pointed to Stewart’s Peabody Award winning coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential races and a Reuters/Ipsos poll in which 52.1 percent of respondents said Stewart shares their worldview on “some or most issues” as reasons why he would be an effective moderator.
“I know this petition can make a difference — in 2012, three concerned high school students started a petition on Change.org asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to select a female moderator for a presidential debate. It garnered over 180,000 signatures, and won!” argued the petition, which has already collected over 175,000 signatures so far as of press time.
On Friday, ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos apologized for failing to disclose $75,000 in personal donations he has made to the Clinton Foundation over the last three years:
[pull_quote_center]”Over the last several years, I have made substantial donations to dozens of charities, including the Clinton Global Foundation. Those donations were a matter of public record, but I should have made additional disclosures on air when we covered the Foundation, and I now believe that directing personal donations to that foundation was a mistake. Even though I made them strictly to support work done to stop the spread of AIDs, to help children, and protect the environment in poor countries, I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. I apologize to all of you for failing to do that.”[/pull_quote_center]
While the donations made by Stephanopoulos are included in the public records on the Clinton Foundation’s website, questions were initially raised on Thursday, by the Washington Free Beacon, noting that he had not “previously disclosed it to ABC viewers,” even though he took part in “on-air discussions about the Clinton Foundation and its controversial relationship with foreign donors.”
Politico noted that Stephanopoulos, who is currently the chief anchor and political correspondent for ABC News, the co-anchor of Good Morning America and host of This Week on ABC, previously served as the communications director for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, and was the communications director and senior adviser for policy and strategy to Clinton during his presidency.
ABC News released a statement ultimately supporting Stephanopoulos, while admitting that he should have been more transparent about his donations, when covering stories related to the Foundation:
[pull_quote_center]”As George has said, he made charitable donations to the Foundation to support a cause he cares about deeply and believed his contributions were a matter of public record. He should have taken the extra step to notify us and our viewers during the recent news reports about the Foundation. He’s admitted to an honest mistake and apologized for that omission. We stand behind him.”[/pull_quote_center]
On Thursday, Stephanopoulos told Politico that he should not have donated money to the Clinton Foundation, and that as a result, he will not moderate ABC’s 2016 GOP Presidential debate in New Hampshire in February.
“I think I’ve shown that I can moderate debates fairly,” Stephanopoulos said. “That said, I know there have been questions made about moderating debates this year. I want to be sure I don’t deprive viewers of a good debate.”
2016 GOP Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told the New York Times that Stephanopoulos’ close ties with the Clintons should disqualify him from moderating any of the 2016 presidential debates.
“It’s impossible to divorce yourself from that, even if you try,” Paul said. “I just think it’s really, really hard because he’s been there, so close to them, that there would be a conflict of interest if he tried to be a moderator of any sort.”
Stephanopoulos is also under fire for his interview with Peter Schweizer on an episode of ABC’s This Week that aired on April 26. Schweizer is the author of the book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” which looks at how foreign donations impacted Hillary Clinton’s decisions during her tenure as Secretary of State.
In his interview with Schweizer, Stephanopoulos claimed that ABC News had “done investigative work” and had ultimately “found no proof of any kind of direct action.” Stephanopoulos maintained that there was “no smoking gun,” and no evidence Clinton “changed the policy based on donations to the foundation.”
Following the announcement from HarperCollins, that it would be making “7-8 factual corrections” to the e-book version of “Clinton Cash,” Schweizer told Bloomberg Politics that “the corrections are all minor,” and that he was “really quite stunned” by the revelation of Stephanopoulos’ donations.
Calling the donations a “massive breach of ethical standards,” Schweizer said, “He fairly noted my four months working as a speech writer for George W. Bush. But he didn’t disclose this?”
In addition to discussing the donations on This Week, Stephanopoulos addressed the subject during an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on April 28, where he said that people who give money to the Clinton Foundation are expecting a return.
“Everybody also knows when those donors give that money… there’s a hope that that’s going to lead to something and that’s what you have to be careful of,” Stephanopoulos said.
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On Sunday, more than 1.2 million people rallied in Paris to participate in the largest demonstration in French history.
This Monday, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart blasted President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for refusing to attend a unity rally in Paris, France, which was held to repudiate Muslim extremism.
While Holder was in Paris, he did not attend the rally.
“What the f***?” says Stewart. “Eric Holder, you were in France! In Paris! At the time of the march and were like, ‘eh’?”