Stewart, who hosted the Comedy Central series between 1999 and 2015, made the admission in an interview with Charlamagne tha God on his radio show The Breakfast Club.
He said that The Daily Show did have a policy that removed names from submission packets. “But we still kept just hiring white dudes. White dudes from a certain background,” he said. “What we realized is the river that we were getting the material from, the tributary was also polluted by the same inertia. And you had to say to them, send me women, send me black people. And all of a sudden, women got funny. It just kind of happened. But they’d been funny all along. We just hadn’t actively done enough to mine that.”
The show was criticized in 2010 in an article in Jezebel for having a predominantly white, male writers’ room. “I remember going back into the writers’ room and being like, ‘Do you believe this shit? Kevin? Steve? Mike? Bob? Donald?’ Oh. Uh oh.”
The director of Irresistible also addressed a fallout between himself and correspondent Wyatt Cenac over his impression of Herman Cain. “I did a bit about Herman Cain where I adopted Herman Cain’s accent. To me, it was just his accent. But to that writer, it was a racist bit,” he said.
“He called me out in a meeting with everybody around, and I got defensive and got mad. It took me a long time to realize that the real issue was that we hired a person who is black, and that because then they felt like they’re carrying the weight of representation. So, they suddenly feel like, ‘I’ve got to be the speaker of the race.’ And that puts a pressure on them. We think we’re doing the right thing, but we’re not doing it in the right way. Those were hard lessons for me, and they were humbling lessons. And I was defensive about them and still didn’t do it all right.”