Report: NBC tried to hire Jon Stewart to host Meet the Press

New York Magazine reports, based on 3 anonymous sources, that NBC News tried to hire Comedy Central star Jon Stewart to host the longest-running television show in history, Meet the Press. Failing to attract Stewart, the network settled for second choice Chuck Todd. Gabriel Sherman reports:

Before choosing Todd, NBC News president Deborah Turness held negotiations with Jon Stewart about hosting Meet the Press, according to three senior television sources with knowledge of the talks. One source explained that NBC was prepared to offer Stewart virtually “anything" to bring him over. "They were ready to back the Brink's truck up," the source said. A spokesperson for NBC declined to comment. James Dixon, Stewart's agent, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The reason behind the seemingly-bizarre purported attempt to install a comedian in what used to be regarded as one of the most august institutions of broadcast television is basic: Stewart has many fans who are among the most coveted television demographic: young people. Old folks are set in their buying habits, and of less value to advertisers than younger viewers, who might be persuaded to favor Coke over Pepsi, United over Delta, or Toyota over Ford, or so the theory goes.

But attracting youngsters to a Sunday morning show might not be so easy:

Stewart, whose Comedy Central contract extends through next year, declined NBC’s aggressive courtship. He probably recognized that much of his audience wouldn’t rush to turn on their televisions early on a Sunday morning. As Todd told a reporter last month, it’s a tough time slot for the young folks: “Are they rejecting the brand or are they just not getting up?" 

As ridiculous (and humiliating for Todd and other serious journalists) as the reported attempt may be, Sherman acknowledges something that many others, including me, have noticed. When he wants to, Stewart can ask tough questions, as he notably did in his interview with President Obama. There is a clue here for the inside-the-beltway crowd who always worry about getting access next time if they ask tough questions. As hopelessly liberal as he is, at least Stewart isn’t afraid to put people on the spot when he talks to them. And face it: David Gregory hosting MTP was already a joke.

At least they didn't try to foist Chelsea Clinton on us. Maybe her pregnancy saved us from that ordeal.