By David Bauder, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Comic Jon Stewart told Bill O'Reilly that the "no spin zone" ringleader had become the voice of sanity on Fox News Channel, although "that's like being the thinnest kid at fat camp."
The host of "The Daily Show" and Fox's kingpin exchanged some good-natured shots Wednesday during Stewart's appearance on a network he relishes mocking. Stewart tossed off jokes but also criticized Fox for being a "cyclonic perpetual motion machine" opposing President Barack Obama.
"They have taken reasonable concerns about this president and this economy and turned it into a full-fledged panic attack about the next coming of Chairman Mao," Stewart said.
O'Reilly said the Obama attacks were primarily coming from Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, who have two of the highest-rated programs on Fox. O'Reilly called Beck an "everyman."
"He just spouts," O'Reilly said. "He spouts for what he believes. If you think Beck spouts for the Republican Party, you're out of your mind."
Fox cut off the taped interview at that point, saying more would be shown Thursday.
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Both men have appeared on each other's show before, but it was Stewart's first time back since 2004. O'Reilly annoyed Comedy Central by calling Stewart's audience primarily "stoned slackers"; on Wednesday, he amended it to "stoned slackers who love Obama."
There was even a dispute over who initiated the return visit. O'Reilly said on Fox earlier Wednesday that Stewart's representatives had asked for him to come on the show. Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox said an O'Reilly producer requested the appearance.
Fox "is the most passionate and sells the clearest narrative of all the news networks, if ... you're still referring to it in that manner," Stewart said.
O'Reilly pointed out that Fox is like a newspaper with news and opinion pages, an idea Stewart poked fun at.
"Fox in and of itself doesn't say you're a news network all day," he said. "What is it, you're news from 9 to 11, then you're opinion, then you're news again from 1 to 2:30 except for the Jewish holidays? And then on alternate parking days you're news, but Christmas, you're not?"
Stewart was asked about a Washington Post column that suggested he was becoming disenchanted with Obama. "I don't take any of that seriously," he said.
But he did criticize Obama for not taking control of his agenda.
"It allows too much room for different narratives to take hold, for instance, a narrative that might emanate from a news organization of this ilk," he said.