Jon Stewart grills Judith Miller over her Iraq reporting
Jon Stewart is headed for the exit of “The Daily Show,” but he’s definitely not coasting. On Wednesday night, Stewart had one of his rare but always noteworthy testy interview exchanges with former New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
Miller, there to promote her new book, “The Story: A Reporter’s Journey,” was at first jovial but quickly became exasperated with Stewart when it became apparent the host was not going to let her off easily.
Miller was a Washington reporter for the Times in 2003, and her reporting on Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction was one thing that helped push public opinion in favor of the Iraq invasion. However, those reports were later found to be largely inaccurate.
As everyone now knows, Hussein possessed no WMDs, and many consider the Iraq invasion to be a huge foreign policy misstep for America.
That’s certainly how Stewart felt when he welcomed Miller.
“I believe that you helped the [Bush] administration take us to the most devastating mistake that in foreign policy that we’ve made in 100 years,” he said. “But you seem lovely.”
While Miller tried to defend herself and shift blame to her intelligence sources who she says steered her wrong, Stewart didn’t seem interested.
“The idea that this all happened in a vacuum seems naive to me,” he countered. “There was a momentum to take us to war — something took us to war in Iraq.”
What was that thing? Miller claims it was 9/11. But Stewart says “It was a concerted effort to take us to war in Iraq.”
Miller said a lot of Democrats were persuaded, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry.
“Idiocy is bipartisan,” Stewart responded.
Miller’s book is her own attempt to understand exactly how she got her reporting back in 2003 so wrong.
And though she held up well for most of the interview, despite battling a cold, Miller grew a bit testy as the interview continued.
“Were we not supposed to report what it was that had the intelligence community so nervous about Saddam?” she asked.
“No, you should have reported it though in the context that this administration was very clearly pushing a narrative,” he responded.
Stewart and Miller’s exchange, though spirited, still never quite reached the emotional levels of the infamous interview between Stewart and CNBC financial show host Jim Cramer in the wake of the economic crash of 2008.
However, instead of the heated emotions of the Cramer interview, Stewart ended his Miller interview on a melancholy note.
“Obviously, we’re never going to see eye to eye on it,” Stewart said. “I appreciate you coming on the program. These discussions always make me incredibly sad because I feel like they point to institutional failure at the highest levels and no one will take responsibility for it. They pass the buck to individual other than themselves. It’s sad.
“I think they point to intelligence failures that I still worry about every day because we’re still relying on the same intelligence communities to give us information about Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and the other countries we have to deal with.
“Hopefully, given the same effort, we’ll get to invade all of them soon,” Stewart responded.
The entire interview can be seen here.
Follow me on Twitter: @patrickkevinday
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
Get our revamped Envelope newsletter, sent twice a week, for exclusive awards season coverage, behind-the-scenes insights and columnist Glenn Whipp’s commentary.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.