Jon Stewart says that while the sexual harassment allegations against pal Louis C.K. “stunned” him, he still thinks he could have done more.
The “Daily Show” alum opened up about C.K.’s fall from grace on the “Today” show Monday, and said that for years, he’d given his friend the benefit of the doubt despite having heard rumors about his habit of masturbating in front of female colleagues.
“I’ve had friends who have compulsions and have done things, gambling, or drinking, or drugs, and some of them have died. 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,” he said.
Stewart, 54, also said he was angry with himself for brushing off and defending rumors about C.K.’s bad behavior when they were brought to his attention directly.
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The comedian said he was doing a podcast with David Axelrod a year ago when someone in the audience asked him what he thought about swirling allegations against C.K. and he quickly deflected.
“My first response was what? And then joke joke, and as he kept going I was like, ‘Look, I know this is very serious, but I was like, ‘I know Louis, he’s always been a gentleman to me,’ which, again, speaks to the blindness that a man has, which is like, ‘Hey, he’s a good guy, what are you talking about?'” Stewart said. “We were all assured no. But we took somebody’s word for it and maybe that’s an error on our part.”
Footage of Stewart filming the podcast is available on YouTube, and the encounter is slightly more tense than Stewart describes.
“Wait, I’m a little lost. So the internet said Louis harassed women? You know who you’re talking to, right?” he tells the audience member, who cited a Gawker article and a podcast by comedian Jen Kirkman.
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“I didn’t see the tweets. Honestly, I’m not that connected to that world. I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know what to say.”
Still, Stewart said he hopes that with emerging allegations against C.K. (and others like Harvey Weinstein and James Toback) there comes a sea change in women’s roles in the entertainment industry.
“I think it’s a question of we’re used to being in charge and I think if you talk to women, they’re in a very difficult position and you get mad at yourself too for laughing it off and thinking it didn’t happen,” he said. “It’s another one of those endemic, systemic, complex problems that we all haven’t had the urgency for, and myself certainly included. I hope it changes.”
Five women came forward Thursday to accuse C.K. of masturbating in front of them. The “Louie” star confirmed the allegations were true a day later, and soon was dropped by FX, HBO and Netflix.
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His upcoming film, “I Love You, Daddy,” was also shelved.