Good will for Stewart gives him unique lobbying platform

Posted at 4:24 PM, Dec 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-11 16:24:19-05

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation's highest-profile congressional lobbyist snuck up behind Stephen Colbert on the CBS "Late Show," willing even to wear a Donald Trump wig to get his point across.

Thursday's appearance was the second time this week Jon Stewart returned to late-night television to push Congress to approve more funding to treat people sickened by working in the rubble of the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"If they don't pass this, I'll glue Congress together, dip them in gold and wear them around my friggin' neck," said Stewart, channeling Trump.

Stewart's access to Colbert's show and his former home at "The Daily Show" gave a unique advantage to supporters of the Zadroga Act, which became law in 2010 but has seen funding expire this fall. Earlier in the week, he went on "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah, Stewart's first time back on the program since leaving as host during the summer.

Noah even got to express mock worry that Stewart had returned to reclaim his job. "I heard about this on American TV," he said, a reference to Jay Leno's return to the "Tonight" show after he'd briefly been replaced by Conan O'Brien and the ratings went down.

Stewart assured him he wasn't. He said he wanted to give attention to the issue "but I realized I didn't have a show."

Effectively, he did. Noah granted Stewart a segment that took more than half the program, and poignantly echoed a show Stewart had done when the legislation was first considered five years ago. Stewart tried to reconvene a panel of four first responders who appeared five years ago, but one had died and two were too sick to attend.

Colbert's career took off when he was a "Daily Show" correspondent. He got his own Comedy Central show that followed Stewart's each day before CBS tapped him to replace David Letterman.

The "Late Show" crowd gave Stewart a standing ovation when he walked up behind Colbert to talk about the Zadroga Act.

"It's a slam dunk," Colbert said. "Everyone wants that, right?"

"If I may, every human," Stewart replied.

Whether through Stewart's help or more traditional forms of lobbying — New York City police and firefighters joined New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand at a news conference Thursday — there's reason for supporters to be optimistic. House Speaker Paul Ryan told Republicans on Thursday that the funding "is going to be taken care of."

Besides his late-night appearance, Stewart traveled to Washington to seek meetings with legislators who had not publicly come out in support of the funding.

"Nobody wants Jon Stewart banging on their office door anymore because he has such a platform," MSNBC's Luke Russert said in reporting on the issue Friday.

Gillibrand seemed disappointed that Stewart's help was even necessary to push the funding through.

"It's sad that it takes a comedian to elevate the voices of our first responders and shine a light on this issue and it's even sadder that it's necessary," The New York Democrat said.