“You give your friends the benefit of the doubt. 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,” he said Tuesday on the Today show. “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. So you feel anger at what you did to people.”
“Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women,” the former Daily Show host added. “The idea that there was this added layer of pressure and manipulation and fear and humiliation. … I think its 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 or for thinking, ‘That didn’t happen.’ And it’s hard.”
Stewart, 54, also discussed a video that has resurfaced since the scandal of a May 2016 taping of David Axelrod’s podcast, The Axe Files, in Chicago. When a University of Chicago student asked why Stewart hadn’t addressed rumors of C.K.’s alleged harassment of female comedians during a previous interview, he laughed and sarcastically responded, “So the Internet said Louis harassed women? You know who you’re talking to, right?”
“I didn’t see the tweets,” he continued. “Honestly, I’m not that connected to that world. I don’t know what you’re talking about. … All I can tell you is I’ve worked with Louis for 30 years, he’s a wonderful person, and I’ve never heard anything about this, and we all knew Bill Cosby was a p**** for a long time.”
On Today, Stewart explained his reaction.
“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 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.”
Stewart added that he hasn’t talked to C.K. since the news broke.
“It’s another one of those endemic, systemic and complex problems that we all haven’t had the urgency for, certainly myself included,” he added.
On Thursday, five women came forward to The New York Times about past experiences with C.K., 50, in which he allegedly masturbated in front of them, asked if he could masturbate in front of them or was heard masturbating while speaking on the phone.
A day after the Times report was published, C.K. confirmed the validity of the stories. (Read his full statement here.)
“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my d— without asking first, which is also true,” he said. “But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your d— isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”
“The power I had over these women is that they admired me,” he added. “And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”