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Jon Stewart talks 'anger' and accountability in wake of Louis C.K. scandal

Jon Stewart said revelations about Louis C.K.'s sexual harassment left him "stunned," and that mistreatment of women was "endemic" in the comedy industry.
/ Source: TODAY

Louis C.K. is one of the biggest names in comedy, but it was a series of serious allegations that put his name in headlines over the past week.

A number of women accused the star of sexual misconduct, and shortly after their claims were reported by The New York Times, Louis C.K. confirmed their accounts of his behavior.

The news shocked fans, and now one of his famous friends, Jon Stewart, admits it even left him "stunned."

"You know, you give your friends a benefit of the doubt," Stewart explained during a Tuesday visit to TODAY. "I try to think of it in terms of ... I've had friends who've had compulsions and who have done things — gambling or drinking or drugs — and we've lost some of them. Some of them have died. You always find yourself back to a moment of, 'Did I miss something? Could I have done more?'"

In this situation, the former "Daily Show" host believed the answer was simple: "I think we all could have."

"You feel anger at what he did to people," he continued. "Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women. I think it's gotten better over the years, but certainly when we started 30 years ago, it was really difficult. So to do it was an act of bravery in and of itself (for women). The idea that there was this added layer of pressure and manipulation, and fear and humiliation — and not just (him)."

Stewart called the problem "endemic" in the industry and acknowledged that men in comedy haven't had a history of taking it seriously.

"I think it's a question of ... we're used to being in charge," he said. "And I think if you talk to women, they're in a very difficult position. You get mad at yourself, too, for laughing it off or for thinking, 'That didn't happen.'"

After all, that was basically his own reaction when he first heard anyone make a claim against Louis C.K.

"A year ago, I was doing a podcast with David Axelrod and a man in the audience asked me about it," Stewart recalled. "I hadn't heard, at that point, of any of it. He said, 'What do you think of the allegations against Louis C.K., and my first response was, 'What?' and then joke, joke. And as he kept going, I was, 'Look, I know this is very serious. I know Louie. He's always been a gentleman' — to me, which, again, speaks to the blindness a man has."

Stewart said he hasn't spoken to Louis C.K. since the comedian released a statement saying, "These stories are true."

As for the troubled environment that women in comedy still face, he added, "I hope it changes."