Jon Stewart blasts corporations exploiting the "decades-long struggle of gay people" for Pride month

Comedian blasts firms' "pandering meant to convince you that not only are corporations people, they’re good people"

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published June 11, 2024 11:54AM (EDT)

The Daily Show with John Stewart (Comedy Central)
The Daily Show with John Stewart (Comedy Central)

Jon Stewart on Monday's episode of "The Daily Show" called out major corporations for what he claimed to be disingenuous displays of allyship with the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month as well as members of diverse communities more broadly. 

Stewart kicked off the segment by arguing that companies "financially exploit the decades-long struggle of gay people for acceptance and equality," before highlighting several examples of ad campaigns that he felt defined his allegations. Burger King, for example, introduced a Pride Whopper featuring two bottom buns, and Oreo debuted a lengthy commercial about a conservatively inclined father accepting his daughter's same-sex relationship, while Skittles released a colorless version of their signature rainbow-colored candy. "Only one rainbow matters during Pride Month," a slogan on the candy's packaging read, per an image Stewart displayed, which he claimed was a move meant to avoid confusing "gay people with competing rainbows." 

The late-night host then took aim at Target, which he jested cared so ardently about Pride Month "that they set up one small area in their 20,000 square feet of store to sell you a Pride t-shirt they had made in Indonesia for 29 cents landed because they believe so much in the cause."

Despite the retail corporation's history of selling a substantial Pride Collection — selling queer merchandise every June for more than a decade — Target recently rolled back the initiative in a move that ostensibly catered to conservative concerns, pulling the LGBTQ merchandise from half of its stores. Following the news about Target's "dialing back" its Pride Month support, Stewart displayed a clip of far-right political commentator Candace Owens stating, "Do not shop at Target, or else you're gay and a pervert." 

"Even if I'm just getting paper towels?" Stewart joked. 

"But that's the burden corporations must bear," he added. "They care almost too much about the human condition, often finding themselves in the crosshairs of ideologues and fundamentalists. But they stand by their values, sometimes for a couple of months."

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Stewart used this comment to pivot to a critique of corporations that, after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, elected to cease sending financial support to congressmen who voted to overturn the election. "And that moral stand in defense of democracy itself lasted almost a month," he said. "Yeah, they ran the numbers and apparently you can sell more cell phones in a dictatorship."

“But don’t be sad,” Stewart continued, “for this is only following in a long line of hollow corporate pandering meant to convince you that not only are corporations people — they’re good people. Decent people who care about the systemic ills of this great nation.”

The comedian sarcastically alleged that proof of this good character corporate quality could be found in the wake of George Floyd's murder, when "corporations saw people's demand for a reckoning with America's racist past," before displaying a montage of campaigns from Vaseline, Doritos, and Kraft in response to Floyd's killing and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement. This display of seeming solidarity and dedication to improving diversity and inclusion standards was superficial, Stewart said, as their commitment "only lasted until the protests died down." He followed this claim by showing reports of tech giants like Meta and Google axing DEI positions and laying off workers in those respective departments. "DEI-related job postings in 2023 declined 44%," said an anchor in a clip from Fox Business. 

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"Turns out the recipe Kraft wanted called for just a dash of inclusion, just a soupcon of diversity," Stewart said. "So they're very clearly conflicted between what they think we want and the amoral values that serve their shareholders."

"So if I may address corporate America quickly in this moment," he continued, "Stop."

"The Daily Show" airs Monday through Thursday at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central and streams on Paramount+

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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