NYT Hails Jon Stewart, 'Television's Pre-eminent Fact-checker of Fox News'

The Times goes after an old enemy indirectly, in a flattering profile of "The Daily Show" and its relentless "fact-checking" of Fox News.

The Times took on its conservative enemy Fox News indirectly with a flattering feature on the front of Saturday Arts page by media reporter Brian Stelter, "Jon Stewart's Punching Bag, Fox News." The profile also boosted the critical reputation of liberal comedian Stewart, host of Comedy Central's hipster hit "The Daily Show."

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are long gone. Fox News Channel is Jon Stewart's new enemy No. 1.

Last week that comedian did something that the hosts of "Fox & Friends," the morning show on Fox News, did not do: he had his staff members call the White House and ask a question.

It may have been in pursuit of farce, not fact, but it gave credence to the people who say "The Daily Show" is journalistic, not just satiric. "Fox & Friends" had repeatedly asked whether the crescent-shaped logo of the nuclear security summit was an "Islamic image," one selected by President Obama in his outreach to the Muslim world. The White House told "The Daily Show" that the logo was actually based on the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom.

"This is how relentless Fox is" in savaging President Obama, Mr. Stewart said.

On the subject of Fox, Mr. Stewart is pretty relentless too. As demonstrated by that crescent segment and dozens of others since Mr. Obama took office, he may well be television's pre-eminent fact-checker of Fox News, the nation's highest-rated cable news channel.

It has been noticed by, among other people, the Fox host Bill O'Reilly, who called Mr. Stewart a "devoted critic" of Fox News and said "his influence is growing."

Separately, this week Mr. Stewart's contract was renewed by Comedy Central into 2013. Combining the earnestness of a journalism professor and the sarcasm of a satirist, Mr. Stewart routinely charges that Fox's news anchors and commentators distort Mr. Obama's policies and advance a conservative agenda. He reminds some viewers of the left-wing group Media Matters but much funnier.

Stelter also plugged Media Matters on his Twitter feed: "My alternative lead: 'Jon Stewart: like Media Matters, but much funnier.'"

Stelter eventually confessed "The Daily Show" was "often-left-leaning," before piling on more praise for its journalistic acumen:

But there he was, checking in with the White House when Fox didn't. The inspiration for the "Fox & Friends" segment about the "Islamic image" came from The New York Post, which, like Fox News, is owned by the News Corporation. Mr. Stewart cut up the clips of the co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Gretchen Carlson reckoning that the flags of Muslim nations look a lot like the summit logo - followed by Ms. Carlson's saying "you be the judge" - before letting rip.