A clip of former Daily Show host Jon Stewart accusing the Pentagon of “corruption” has gone viral online, racking up over a million views.
Stewart, a comedian and political commentator who currently hosts The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV+, appeared at the War Horse Symposium in Chicago on Thursday where he interviewed Kathleen Hicks, a deputy secretary for the Department of Defense (DOD). During the discussion, which was broadcast on C-SPAN, Stewart called out the discrepancy between the department’s ballooning budgets and the fact that many of its soldiers struggle with basic necessities, ultimately suggesting that the situation smacked of “corruption.”
“We got out of 20 years of war and the Pentagon got a raise,” Stewart said. “I can’t figure out how $850 billion to a department means that the rank and file still have to be on food stamps. To me, that’s f***ing corruption.”
The clip of that particular exchange between Stewart and Hicks, as well as the conversation surrounding it, was shared by the official C-SPAN Twitter account on Friday. It quickly went viral and, as of early Saturday afternoon, has racked up nearly 1.5 million views on the C-SPAN account alone.
The figure that Stewart referenced appears to have been from the Biden Administration’s fiscal year 2024 DOD budget proposal in March, which totaled roughly $842 billion. The total national defense budget proposed was around $886 billion, with some arguing that a $1 trillion budget is within sight. That total also includes $325 billion for the Department of Veteran Affairs, the largest proposed amount for that agency in its history.
While Stewart began his career as an actor and comedian, his years as the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show propelled him into the political sphere, a momentum which he has maintained since departing the series in 2015. He has consistently advocated for the health benefits of first responders of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, and is credited with helping expand the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. He has also advocated extensively on behalf of veterans, fighting particularly for greater healthcare offerings to those soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals by burn pits.
In response to Stewart’s criticism on Thursday, Hicks said that the DOD has fallen short in its efforts to help veterans in the past, but insisted that it is working to improve matters.
“We definitely think we need to increase the spending that we are putting forward toward our service members and their families,” Hicsk said. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is in areas like child care…We do think we’re getting better on that.”
Newsweek reached out to the Department of Defense via email for comment.
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