The Washington Times - July 9, 2009, 12:14AM


The Daily Show’s John Oliver was a top attraction today at the Campus Progress conference in D.C.

Right before he started talking, organizers said no audio or video would be allowed.

During his remarks to the liberal-leaning college students gathered in the Omni hotel’s ballroom, Oliver ripped on the media especially and weighed in on President Obama and the health care fight.

Oliver said he loves his job and joked to the students in the room that might be “aspiring journalists” that they may soon become enemies.

“Or, you might be good at your job,” he deadpanned.

He said he’s glad to have different rules for his line of work, where his only job is “to try to make people laugh.” 

Students repeatedly lauded Daily Show host Jon Stewart and the “fake journalists” on the show for doing a public service and often giving better insight than the real press. Oliver insisted they have no interest in doing real journalism at Comedy Central.

It’s comedy meant to be funny, he said, “We’re not Media Criticism Central.”

When pushed further, with some students insisting the Daily Show has more value than cable news, Oliver said the Daily Show’s popularity is “not a compliment to us, it’s a well-aimed insult to them.”

Oliver also blasted Fox’s Glenn Beck and radio mogul Rush Limbaugh.

They are “almost a joke within themselves … beneath contempt,” he said. Oliver said they call themselves entertainers but aren’t, saying they offer “bone-chilling meandering.”

He also seemed to take a shot at MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann without naming the “Countdown” host - mocking when cable news hosts offer “my comment” straight to the camera. That seemed to be a hit on Olbermann’s “Special Comment.”

“This is not your platform to say what you think,” Oliver said.

He said the back-and-forth fighting between Fox and MSNBC amounts to “self-satisfied smugness … that is really concerning” from both networks.

He didn’t spare CNN - at one point mocking Wolf Blitzer for excessive Michael Jackson coverage.

Oliver also said he was surprised the Daily Show keeps getting credentials to be part of the press at big events, since “We act like naughty children.” (He did, however, get big cheers for noting Jason Jones’ recent reporting from Tehran during the Iran elections.)

He said the British television networks would be harder to mock if the show were done across the Atlantic, but then added an insult by saying Sky News is “pretty bad,” and comparing it to Fox.

The moderator asked Oliver to offer his thoughts on the health care fight, and the comedian said he agrees with Obama’s recent statement at a town hall: “It is not good enough for a country this wealthy not to be able to cover people.”

He talked about attending some of the Sarah Palin rallies toward the end of last year’s election. One in Scranton, Pa. bothered him and he found some of the comments he heard from her fans there “genuinely troubling.” 

Oliver served as a warm-up act for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who talked about the Democratic agenda, and former President Bill Clinton, who I will be writing more about soon. 

In the meantime, here’s a long-ish video I shot of Clinton detailing a project that’s helped in Haiti.



— Christina Bellantoni, White House correspondent, The Washington Times

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