Players: Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show and a not-so-good, equal-opportunity impersonator; Donald Trump, billionaire and one-time Republican frontrunner who's been impersonated (well and badly) many times.
The Opening Serve: Jon Stewart's Halloween episode of The Daily Show picked apart the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal. "In Herman Cain's defense, there is very little in the pizza world that is not sexually suggestive," joked Stewart before assuming an accent (Italian?) and dropping pizza double entendres. The media's choice imagery, Cain's flubs, and Cain's "giant Mexican-zapper" were all part of Stewart's segment. But he also focused on Fox's soft treatment of the Cain scandal.
The Return Volley: Rising to Cain's defense, Trump released a video yesterday claiming that Stewart is a racist. "How come Jon Stewart gets away with a very, very racist rant against Herman Cain?" asked Trump "It's not what he said, but the way he said it. The tone of his voice, the inflection. Unbelievable. Anybody else--deep deep trouble." Trump then sarcastically pleads with the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, along with "sleepy-eyed Chuck Todd" to get involved.
Trump's allegations echo an issue brought up by Bernard Goldberg for Fox News, who argued that Stewart had put on a "black voice" to mock Herman Cain and was met without any liberal rage--something he feels conservatives don't get away with. "So, is Jon Stewart a racist for doing his 'Amos ‘n Andy' routine to make fun of Herman Cain?" wrote Goldberg. "Yes! Absolutely! And I will say that over and over again, every chance I get – even though I don’t believe it. And I won’t stop until my liberal friends finally get it." The coverage came to a head earlier this summer, when Stewart addressed his Herman Cain impression and the stories it created in a Daily Show "evisceration" of itself.
Both Trump and Goldberg's rants are predated by Rick Sanchez who called Stewart a "bigot" and subsequently out-bigoted an alleged bigot by declaring the Jewish people ran the media and entertainment industries. It's also worth noting that Stewart has taken more than his fair share of jabs at Trump. Trump's sacrilege pizza-eating, his hair, relations with Sarah Palin, comparing gay marriage to golf clubs (and there's more), have all turned into Stewart jokes.
What They Say They're Fighting About: If Jon Stewart's Herman Cain impression is racist. Stewart would argue that he's an equal-opportunity impersonator. Trump is concerned not by "what he said, but the way he said it."
What They're Really Fighting About: Donald Trump's face time, ego and relevancy. Jon Stewart has been doing voices and impersonations for a while, and even mocked himself (and his talent for said impersonations) back in June. But the perfect storm of heavy media coverage, Republican reactions, Cain being a frontrunner and the ensuing damage control has brought Trump out firing. It's not really so much about Stewart's racism as it is about Trump trying to be as relevant as he was when he was the Republican frontrunner.
Who's Winning Now: Stewart. It'd be easier to believe Trump's accusations if Trump believed them himself. Trump's flirtation with the Republican hopefuls--Rick Perry's fun with birtherism, Michele Bachmann's tele-townhall, and now assuming the mantle of Herman Cain's premier defender--seems like he's more interested in the ratings that their debates have snagged and their current celebrity status than their actual causes or their chances of winning the nomination. Since Herman Cain is the self-described and poll-certified "Flavor of the Month," Donald Trump will help himself to ample many servings as possible, even if we're all sick of it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.