Jon Stewart said he regrets not acting sooner when he first heard reports that his friend and fellow comedian Louis C.K. had behaved inappropriately with female comics.
“You always find yourself back to a moment of, ‘Did I miss something? Could I have done more?'” Stewart told Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on “Today” on Tuesday. “And in this situation, I think we all could have. So you feel anger at what you did to people.”
Last week, C.K.’s career fell into a tailspin after he admitted to repeated acts of sexual misconduct following a report in the New York Times.
Stewart said that his initial impulse was to side with C.K. “You give your friends the benefit of the doubt,” the former “Daily Show” host said. “I tried to think about it in terms of, I’ve had friends who have had compulsions and have done things: gambling or drinking or drugs. And we’ve lost some of them. Some of them have died.”
Stewart also addressed the power dynamics in comedy, a topic other comedians have brought up since the misconduct accusations posed against C.K.
“Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women,” said Stewart, who revealed he hasn’t talked to C.K. since the news broke.
“The idea that there was this added layer of pressure and manipulation and fear and humiliation,” he said. “If you talk to women, they’re in a very difficult position, and you get mad at yourself, too, for laughing it off or for thinking, ‘That didn’t happen.’ And it’s hard.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Stewart added, “It’s another one of those endemic, systemic and complex problems that we all haven’t had the urgency for, certainly myself included.”
Stewart also tried to address his dismissal of online chatter about C.K.’s behavior when he appeared in a May 2016 video of David Axelrod’s podcast, “The Axe Files.”
“My first response was, ‘What?'” Stewart said on “Today.” “And then, joke, joke, and as he kept going, I was like, ‘Look, I know this is very serious, but I know Louis, he’s always been a gentleman to me,’ which, again, it speaks to the blindness that I think a man has,” he said.
“Digging around in it and finding that some people had done, it was hard, but we were all assured like, no, but we took somebody’s word for it, and maybe that’s an error on our part.”
You can see Stewart’s interview in the video above.