After five women made allegations of sexual misconduct against Louis C.K. in a New York Times exposé published on November 9, C.K. admitted in a statement that the women's stories were all true. Some people were shocked (mostly men), others, not as much (mostly women). Jon Stewart said that he was in the former camp and that he had no idea anything like that had happened.
Speaking on the Today show on Tuesday, Stewart, long-time host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, said of finding out about C.K.'s sexual harassment that he was "stunned." He said, "You know, you give your friends a benefit of the doubt. I try to think of it in terms of ... I've had friends who've had compulsions and who have done things — gambling or drinking or drugs — and we've lost some of them. Some of them have died. You always find yourself back to a moment of, 'Did I miss something? Could I have done more?'"
In this case, Stewart thinks the answer is yes, "I think we all could have."
You feel anger at what he did to people. Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women. I think it's gotten better over the years, but certainly when we started 30 years ago, it was really difficult. So to do it was an act of bravery in and of itself (for women). The idea that there was this added layer of pressure and manipulation, and fear and humiliation — and not just (him).
All of this is not to say that Stewart had never actually heard anything about the allegations. He admitted that men have a pretty bad track record when it comes to taking women's allegations of sexual harassment or even abuse seriously. Stewart himself was extremely dismissive of rumors about C.K. last year. He told Today,
A year ago, I was doing a podcast with David Axelrod and a man in the audience asked me about it. I hadn't heard, at that point, of any of it. He said, "What do you think of the allegations against Louis C.K.", and my first response was, "What?" and then joke, joke. And as he kept going, I was, "Look, I know this is very serious. I know Louie. He's always been a gentleman" — to me, which, again, speaks to the blindness a man has.
Stewart said that while things have gotten better for women in comedy than they were 30 years ago, they still face that men do not. He told Today, "I hope it changes." I think we all do. (Except Men's Rights Activists, but never mind about them.)