Fox News President Roger Ailes offered Jon Stewart quasi-kind words and several backhanded compliments before the comedian concluded his run as host of The Daily Show.
"He's a brilliant comedian," Ailes told The Hollywood Reporter. "He's actually a very nice guy, and I saw him with his kids on the street. He's a good father. He has a bitter view of the world and you see it embodied in how he's reacting to Fox News, equating it with death."
Ailes was referring to a recent Daily Show segment where Stewart, once again, took Fox News to task for insinuating he was an Obama administration pawn after news emerged about the host's not-so secret meetings with the president. In the bit, Stewart illustrated a legitimately secret meeting he once had with Ailes using a clip from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal in which a character confronts the Grim Reaper.
"He's been after us for years," Ailes said. "Occasionally we pay attention. We think he's funny. We never took it seriously and he never made a dent in us."
Ailes went on to posit his own self-aggrandizing reasons as to why Stewart's calling it quits after 16 years: "As he faces the end of his career, he's beginning to wonder: 'Is this as popular as I'm ever going to get? Is this as much power as I'll ever have? The one person I could never get rid of was Roger Ailes. I tried. I did everything I could.' This was all a plea to his lefty friends. I think he's disappointed that he didn't accomplish that goal, and we, of course, supplied him with half of his comedy. It’s just a matter of disappointment."
Stewart — who opened his penultimate show poking fun at all the ways his satire has failed over the years — might agree, then try to direct Ailes to the real point, somewhere far in the distance.
Ailes took a few more shots at Stewart, assuming the host spends each night crushed "because Fox News beats him on the amount of money we make, on ratings and popularity." The president of the network added, "You can't say that many negative things about people unless you’re really unhappy about something.
"I actually think he doesn’t dislike me," Ailes continued. "We met once or twice. I talked to him for an hour once in my office. I think he’s really smart and he’s got a great future." When asked if Stewart might be welcomed at Fox News, Ailes replied: "No. He can't come over here. He would depress everyone. I could get him a job. Not on air. As a stage-hand."