Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart admitted on Tuesday that he didn’t do enough to create a diverse staff for the show, but he said he now knows the right way to do it in the future.
In an interview with the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club,” Stewart said white men in positions of power need to acknowledge systemic racism and break down its structures. He also shared some insight on why many white men accept that in theory, but have trouble following through on it.
“Nobody likes to be called on their shit, especially when they feel like it’s not really their shit,” Stewart said. “But what you realize is, just stopping active persecution isn’t enough to dismantle. It has to be actively dismantled.”
Co-host Charlamagne tha God said dismantling systemic racism requires powerful white people admitting that a problem exists. Stewart agreed and brought up his experiences as a “Daily Show” host to illustrate his own shortcomings.
During his 16-season career as a host, Stewart received criticism for the show’s lack of diversity from both viewers and cast members, including Wyatt Cenac.
Stewart conceded on “The Breakfast Club” that he didn’t do enough to make “The Daily Show” more inclusive, saying he remembered “going back into the writer’s room and being like, ‘Do you believe this shit? Kevin? Steve? Mike? Bob? Donald?’” and thinking, “Oh … Uh oh. Uh oh.”
Although the show had a policy of hiding job applicants’ names so that producers didn’t know a writer’s gender or racial background, Stewart said the team nevertheless kept hiring “white dudes.”
Eventually, Stewart and his team realized the issue was that they kept trying to find writers to hire from the same sources. Changes in diversity only began to take place after he specified that he wanted to see more applications from women and people of color.
“And all of a sudden, women got funny. It just kind of happened, but they’d been funny all along. We just hadn’t actively done enough to mine that,” Stewart said told “The Breakfast Club.”
Stewart added that he doesn’t think his actions were racist or sexist, but he said his “ignorance of that dynamic had real consequences” for many talented people.
“For us to dismantle the entrenched tributaries that continue to contribute to inequality of outcome of equity, it takes effort,” he said.
Watch Stewart’s interview with “The Breakfast Club” below, starting at the 50-minute mark:
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