An Open Letter to The Daily Show's Jon Stewart RE: Taco Bell

Dear Mr. Stewart,

First of all, big fan. I am one of those who believe you are indeed “The Most Trusted Man In America.” If I had a few hundred bucks and vacation days to spare, I would've flown to D.C. to attend your Rally to Restore Sanity. Even though you persistently insist you are a fake-news man, as far as I'm concerned, you are worthy to wear the mantle of journalism left by the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. You cut through the dense rut of information and misinformation, using nothing but a person's own words in archived video to discredit and expose them as hypocrites.

This extends to your “correspondents” and “commentators,” especially Lewis Black, who occasionally appears to do his concise and razor-sharp Back In Black segments. His latest was dubbed “Meat Edition” (aired Feb. 1, 2011), which touched on the Taco Bell meat scandal. While everything Lewis said is spot-on hilarious, a biting commentary on the state of food as ever, something in the segment didn't set well in my stomach. It was as if I actually ate a Taco Bell taco.

The segment included a clip from the Taco Bell YouTube video of its CEO, Greg Creed, speaking on the scandal. The clip you featured showed Creed defending his company's food by saying, “Our seasoned-beef recipe contains 88 percent quality USDA-inspected beef. So what's the other 12 percent? It's our secret!”

At that point in Lewis' segment, the video cut off. The next shot was of Lewis, mouth already agape, forehead veins throbbing and about to pop. The audience, having gasped at the sheer audacity and gall of that “It's our secret!” proclamation, were now understandably ready to eat out of Lewis' hands. Then Lewis let him have it.

“Your secret!? Listen to me! When I ask an old Italian lady in a house dress what is in her sauce, she can tell me it's a secret. But when an Australian guy, running a Mexican restaurant with a dog for a mascot, says it, I want to know the secret.”

To the casual observer, it was a great joke delivered (and it was), but to those who actually watched the entire Taco Bell YouTube video, the selective editing made it seem like the guy was being evasive. The fact is that the “It's out secret” line was actually just a set-up for his next sentence, which was “And I'm going to give it to you” followed by a list of the stuff he says are in the beef recipe.

Let's be clear: I'm not giving any credence to Taco Bell's claims. That's up to the lawyers. And for the record, for decades now, aside from using the chain as a butt of jokes for my food reviews, Taco Bell and what it serves (or doesn't serve) is not my concern. My concern is that your out-of-context and misleading editing of that video is, to use a word you use often, disingenuous. I understand you needed to do it for the comedy, but I fear that it hurts you more than it does Taco Bell. And Taco Bell ain't worth your reputation as “The Most Trusted Man in America.”

Other than that, keep up the good work. Again, big fan!

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