Joe Scarborough was comical last night. He misstated facts and whined so unabashedly hypocritically. His target was Jon Stewart. Envious at the popularity of “The Daily Show,” he blamed Stewart for turning off young voters.

Is Jon Stewart corrupting American youth and driving voters to become cynical? That‘s what the “USA Today” asked in a feature [Ed. Note: It was an op-ed column] dubbed, “The Daily Show Generation.” You know, I didn‘t even feel it, but yes, friends, we‘re all part of “The Daily Show generation” now, which questions whether Jon Stewart actually encourages young people to get involved in politics or keeps them away from the polls. Now, a recent East Carolina University study that we talked about a few months back says “The Daily Show” isn‘t so funny, after all, finding that young people who watch the show develop cynical views about government that could keep them from voting.

First of all, Scarborough misrepresents the thesis of the article. You’ve got to wonder if he even read it.

One was part of the [Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania] 2004 Election Survey under the direction of Kathleen Hall Jamieson… disclosed that late-night comedy viewers were more likely than the early-to-bed general public to be knowledgeable about the issue positions and backgrounds of the presidential candidates — and viewers of The Daily Show were, as a group, better informed than those of David Letterman or Jay Leno.

…A second Annenberg report, released in May, studied media use among people ages 14-22 and found that for the majority of them (almost 60%), the Web is the primary source of news. Newspapers ranked a distant second, and the national evening news on TV (including cable networks) came in last. I’d say that over the years, the current-event reports in my classes have mirrored this pattern, bearing in mind that many people read newspapers online now.

A second set of facts emerged from this study: Reading newspapers (presumably, on- or off-line) increases political awareness, but searching the Internet increases both political awareness and civic engagement. The Daily Show generation, in other words, is not only apt to be more concerned about politics but also more likely to be spurred to do something with that concern.

The apparent sharp upsurge in the past several years of political activism — both liberal and conservative — on college campuses nationwide would seem to bear this out.

So what does Joe say later on?

[W]hy is this guy having universities conduct studies on whether he‘s damaging American democracy?

… [I]f Jon Stewart is actually getting younger people watching a show about politics, my point is, it couldn‘t get any worse with young voter turnout, so maybe this is a good thing, isn‘t it?

…I mean, the voting age got moved down to 18. And you know, I remember last—in 2004, had a huge debate… with other people on my panel, election night, 2004. They kept saying, Oh, the young people are going to come out and vote for John Kerry. They‘re going to put him over the top. I said, No, young people do not vote, they never have. Unfortunately, they never will.

Problem is Scarborough is dead wrong.

Voter turnout increased sharply in 2004, reaching its highest level since the 1968 presidential election. Young adults contributed to the surge. Although news reports initially claimed that young adults had failed once again to show up at the polls, the reports proved wrong. Nearly five million more young adults voted in 2004 than had done so in 2000.

… Initial assessments of voter turnout in 2004 were badly off the mark, missing both the surge in turnout overall and among young adults. Reporters erred in part because they overlooked the large number of absentee ballots, many of which (more than 7 million) were not included in the early unofficial vote totals. The reporting also erred because journalists got trapped in their story line, having predicted that Kerry would win if young adults showed up in huge numbers. When he lost and when exit polls indicated that young adults were roughly the same percentage of the voting electorate as they had been in 2000, reporters concluded that young adults had not responded.

In fact, turnout among eligible adults under 30 years old rose by 9 percentage points, pushing their voting rate to over 50 percent (see Figure 1). Their turnout rate in battleground states—such as Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—exceeded 60 percent.

Best line of the night? Actually, there were two.

SCARBOROUGH: But there is a spin, though, is there not, in Jon Stewart‘s message? And the spin is that George Bush specifically, and Republicans generally, are idiots.
[Media editor for Rachel] SKLAR: Do you need to spin that?

The other was Scarborough’s telling of his own son’s reaction to Scarborough being a guest on “The Daily Show.”

I thought this guy was supposed to have a sense of humor. He certainly didn‘t. In fact, he called me a dirty name. But that‘s OK. My 18-year-old son said, Hey, Dad, that was cool. I said, What—he called me a blank-bag. My son said, yes, that was cool, wasn‘t it.

Then, after he mocked Stewart and lamented that young folks weren’t getting exposed to the right kind of political news, Scarborough plugged the next segments of his show.

Anyway, coming up: Anna Nicole Smith‘s young son dies right in front of her. Find out why investigators still aren‘t ruling out foul play. Plus: To catch a predator is back. “Dateline” takes its investigation to small-town America with some disturbing results. Are sex offenders hiding in your back yard? And later: The Dixie Chicks‘s stunning new attack on George W. Bush, stunning only because it is such bad PR! Shut up and sing, baby! Shut up and sing!

Hey Joe, I’d settle if you’d just shut up.