Jon Stewart visited Today Tuesday morning to promote “Night Of Too Many Stars,” an Autism benefit the comedian hosts, and as was to be expected, the subject of Louis C.K. came up. Stewart, who was joined by the benefit’s creator Michelle Smigel, had been quiet about the Louis scandal, but many were waiting to a response from him. Another comedian and long-time friend of the C.K., Marc Maron, addressed the ongoing scandal on Monday’s episode of WTF with Marc Maron, so now it was Stewart’s turn.
When asked by Today hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie for a reaction, Stewart paused for a moment before saying he was “stunned” and that “you give your friends the benefit of the doubt.”
“I try to think of it in terms of, I’ve had friends who have had compulsions and have done things, gambling or drinking and drugs, and we’ve lost some of them, some of them have died,” Stewart said. “And you always find yourself back to a moment of, did I miss something? Could I have done more? And in this situation, I think we all could have. So you feel anger at what you did to people.”
Stewart went on to say that “comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women” and even though it’s gotten better in recent years, it is still a tough field for women. The former host of The Daily Show said that back when comedians like himself, as well as C.K. and Maron, started out thirty years ago, a woman trying to make it in comedy was itself “an act of bravery.”
One of the reasons that a reaction from Stewart was as anticipated as much as it was was due in large part to his reaction a year ago when he was asked about what were then rumors of C.K.’s behavior. Appearing on a podcast hosted by David Axelrod, the former chief campaign strategist for Barack Obama, Stewart was asked by an audience member if there was a chance C.K. might be The Daily Show‘s last guest with Stewart as host, with the audience member, Dan Ackerman, alluding to the allegations surrounding C.K.
“So the internet said Louis harassed women,” Stewart replied. “No, I didn’t see the tweets. I’m not that connected to that world.”
Stewart continued, saying “I do apologize. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I can’t answer. All I can tell you is I’ve worked with Louis for 30 years, and he’s a wonderful man and person and I’ve never heard anything about this.”
On Tuesday morning, Stewart talked about that incident on Today, saying that he had been caught off guard by Ackerman’s question.
“My first response was, what?” he said. “And then, joke joke, and as he kept going I was like, ‘Look, I know this is very serious, but I know Louie, he’s always been a gentleman to me’ — 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?’”
As the interview came to a close, Lauer asked if Stewart had talked to C.K. since last week’s New York Times story broke.
“No, I haven’t,” he replied.
Night Of Too Many Stars airs live on HBO Saturday November 18th at 8pm. It features John Oliver, Olivia Munn, Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Stephen Colbert and more.