Comedian Jon Stewart went wildly off script during this talk show appearance – and his angry rant caused immediate controversy.
US comedian Jon Stewart veered wildly off script during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week, putting forward his own theory that Covid-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan.
“I think we owe a great debt of gratitude towards science. Science has in many ways helped ease the suffering of this pandemic … which was more than likely caused by science,” Stewart began, which prompted a stunned reaction from Colbert.
The host asked his guest to elaborate: “So there’s a chance this was created in a lab? If there’s evidence, I’d love to hear it,” he said.
“There’s a chance?” Stewart scoffed. “Oh my god, there’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking China. What do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The DISEASE is the SAME NAME as the LAB! That’s just a little too weird, don’t you think?”
Fact check: The lab Stewart’s referring to is in fact the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research institute located around 15km from the seafood wet market that reported the first cluster of Covid cases late in 2019.
“You ask a scientist, ‘So wait a minute, you work at the Wuhan respiratory coronavirus lab, how did this happen?’ And they’re like, ‘mmm, a pangolin kissed a turtle?’ No! Look at the name of your lab! It’s the coronavirus lab in Wuhan!” Stewart continued.
He further mocked theories the virus jumped from animals to humans, saying: “Maybe a bat flew into the cloaca of a turkey and then it sneezed into my chilli and now we all have coronavirus.”
Increasingly animated, Stewart stood up and banged the table as Colbert tried to calm his guest. But he continued, comparing the origins of the pandemic to a theoretical “outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania”.
“Maybe a steam shovel mated with a cocoa bean … or it’s the f***in’ chocolate factory!”
“It could be possible that they have the lab in Wuhan to study the novel coronavirus diseases because in Wuhan there are a lot of novel coronavirus diseases because of the bat population,” Colbert countered.
“Sure, and it’s the only place to find bats,” Colbert said sarcastically. “You won’t find bats anywhere else! Oh wait, Austin, Texas has thousands of them that fly out of a cave every night at dusk. Is there an Austin coronavirus? No, there doesn’t seem to be. The only coronavirus we have is in WUHAN, where they have – what’s the lab called again, Stephen?”
“The Wuhan novel coronavirus lab,” said Colbert, before telling his guest: “You know we stopped filming a long time ago.”
Stewart’s lengthy rant was met with a mixed response from viewers, with some criticising him – and indeed the show – for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Others worried his comments could stir up anti-Asian violence, already on the rise in America.
“Just two weeks ago YouTube would have censored this video for spreading ‘medical misinformation’ and ‘conspiracy theories.’ My how things have changed,” read the top-rated comment under the YouTube clip of the segment.