Jon Stewart calls rejection of UK candidate for liking one of his sketches ‘dumbest thing since Boris Johnson’

The US late-night satirist Jon Stewart has responded after Britain’s Labour Party blocked left-wing academic Faiza Shaheen from standing as a candidate in the upcoming general election for liking a number of potentially offensive social media posts, one of which featured a clip from The Daily Show.

“This is the dumbest thing The UK has done since electing Boris Johnson… what the actual f****…,” the comedian wrote on X when he was notified of the controversy.

The clip in question, dating from July 2014, sees Stewart introducing a segment about an Israeli ground offensive – during the 2014 Gaza War – at which point he is immediately swarmed and rebuked by four of the Comedy Central show’s correspondents, barracking him as a “self-hating Jew” for daring to question the country’s actions.

“Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this issue but just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policy is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas,” Stewart says, before being shouted down again, at which point he abandons the subject and pivots to talking about Ukraine, a matter about which the correspondents concede they have no strong feelings. Ukraine was also in the news in 2014 after Russia seized the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea.

The account that posted the tweet liked by Ms Shaheen, which featured the clip, also included a commentary attacking the “Israel lobby” that read: “You can’t easily ignore them, because those are not just random people, they tend to be friends or people who move in the same circles as you. Those people are mobilized by professional organizations, but to a large extent, that is organic.”

Ms Shaheen is understood to have been called to a meeting with a panel of Labour’s National Executive Committee on Tuesday in which they highlighted posts on her X account that they said raised questions about her suitability to stand as its candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green in north London.

According to Ms Shaheen, she then received an email on Wednesday evening in which she was told she would be barred from standing for the party – despite having previously contested the same seat in the 2019 election – in which she was told that her running would “frustrate Labour’s purpose”.

The Independent has reached out to the Labour Party for comment.

Faiza Shaheen, pictured on the campaign trail with former leader Jeremy Corbyn (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Faiza Shaheen, pictured on the campaign trail with former leader Jeremy Corbyn (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A visibly shaken Ms Shaheen appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday night and said she was in “a state of shock”, telling host Victoria Derbyshire that she had been quizzed by the committee about 14 posts she had liked dating back to 2014, some of which, its members felt, could be considered antisemitic.

“I don’t remember liking the tweet… If you see that tweet, it was a retweet of a Jon Stewart sketch,” she said.

“I watched the Jon Stewart sketch but I wouldn’t have even ordinarily liked that. Honestly, I probably… It was the middle of the night, if you look at the time. I was probably with the baby, breastfeeding. I don’t even remember liking that tweet.”

Challenged on whether she understood why some would be offended by her liking the post in question, she answered: “I know what’s wrong with it, of course, the line that’s there about ‘they’re in professional organisations’, it plays into a trope and I absolutely don’t agree with that and I’m sorry about that.

Jon Stewart appears in the controversial Daily Show sketch from July 2014 (Comedy Central/YouTube)
Jon Stewart appears in the controversial Daily Show sketch from July 2014 (Comedy Central/YouTube)

“And I expressed that I was sorry in that meeting [on Tuesday] over my crying baby but that’s one tweet. I’ve organised an inter-faith vigil with a local rabbi after the attacks, Hamas’s attack [on 7 October 2023].”

Ms Shaheen suggested she felt her removal as a candidate was disproportionate, commenting: “Really? Just liking a tweet, which you can do with a touch of a hand? After all the work I’ve done?”

She told Derbyshire she felt “foolish” over the episode and apologised to party activists and people who had helped her throughout her career before complaining of “double standards” within Labour and asking: “What message are you sending my community?”