Jon Stewart returned to The Daily Show for the first time since passing the torch to new host Trevor Noah in August to provide an update on a cause he has been supporting for years: Funding healthcare for 9/11 first responders.
Stewart popped up in the second half of the show (“Are you lost?” new host Noah joked before happily handing over the mic to his predecessor) to discuss the reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, which provides health care for emergency responders who developed illnesses as a result of working on Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The act expired in part on Sept. 30 and will expire in full by October of next year.
There was “no reason not to renew it permanently, but they did not renew it anyway,” Stewart said, sitting across from his old desk. “It’s soon going to be out of money. These first responders, many sick with cancers and pulmonary disease, have had to travel at their own expense to Washington, D.C., hundreds of times to plead for our government to do the right thing.”
“The only conclusion I can draw is that the people of Congress are not as good a people as the people who are first responders.”
The show then aired a pre-taped segment (which is common for The Daily Show, although they are usually helmed by the show’s correspondents) where Stewart, accompanied by several first responders, visited the offices of several members of the Congress and Senate “to see if shame works.” The practice apparently worked on Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, who, according to Stewart, signed onto the bill that very night. “So maybe shame does work,” Stewart mused.
Stewart returned after the commercial break in a segment where he specifically called out Sen. Mitch McConnell, who he called “an enormous obstacle, unwilling to move the bill forward for purely political reasons.”
Noah then reminded Stewart that he had hosted a panel on The Daily Show in 2010 to advocate for the initial passage of the Zadroga Act, and suggested Stewart bring the panel back. Stewart then stepped away to another set where only one man, retired firefighter Kenny Specht, was sitting. When Stewart asked Specht where the rest of the panel was, Specht replied that two of them had illnesses and the third had died.
Stewart finished his appearance by calling on the audience to use social media to support the reauthorization of the act, initially suggesting a hashtag with an expletive before instead landing on #WorstResponders.