Devin Gordon in The Atlantic:
In march 2021, shortly after Jon Stewart joined Twitter, he tapped the microphone and used his new pulpit to make amends for an infamous act of aggression from his distant past. “I called Tucker Carlson a dick on National television,” Stewart tweeted. “It’s high time I apologize…to dicks. Never should have lumped you in with that terrible terrible person.” Stewart originally fired this shot 17 years ago, on October 15, 2004, but if you’re old enough, you surely remember what happened, in part because it was one of the first truly viral political videos of this century. Stewart was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s cacophonous CNN political-argument show, Crossfire, a half-hour nightly migraine of debate-club doublespeak, during which Stewart pleaded with Carlson to “stop hurting America.” “Wait, I thought you were gonna be funny,” Tucker sniffed. “No,” Stewart shot back, “I’m not gonna be your monkey.” Soon enough he was calling Tucker a dick on national television. “You’re as big a dick on your show,” he said, “as you are on any show.”
Tucker Carlson was actually the co-host of Crossfire, along with his left-leaning Clinton-era frenemy Paul Begala, but nobody remembers Begala, and why should they? The whole thing went down in history as Jon Stewart versus Tucker Carlson, with Stewart the champion by first-round knockout. Within months, CNN canceled Crossfire, hurtling Stewart into a position of political influence and superstardom that few comics in America have ever reached. Two weeks after Stewart humiliated Tucker on his own show, President George W. Bush won a narrow reelection over Senator John Kerry, and it would be no overstatement to say that, in the pre-Obama years that followed, the leader of Democratic resistance was Jon Stewart, and he was holding rallies weeknights at 11 p.m Eastern on Comedy Central.