Jason's View

An Open Letter to Jon Stewart: Please Interview a Person on the Autism Spectrum

10 Jun 2015 by Jason Harris
Jon Stewart (Image: Public Domain)

Earlier this year, Jason’s Connection sent a letter to Jon Stewart. We never got a response, so we’re reposting here in our magazine, in hopes that before Mr. Stewart signs off on August 6, he might see it.–Ed.

Dear Jon Stewart,

While you do an amazing job on many things, and I am a long-time fan of your show, there is one area where I feel you could do better.

You recently had Robert Smigel on your show to promote Night of Too Many Stars. While charity events almost always are well-intentioned, as a person on the autism spectrum, I feel this one misses the mark.

You have interviewed a wide variety of people on your show–celebrities, writers, politicians, and activists of every stripe. However, you have never (at least not that I could find) interviewed a person on the autism spectrum. You have interviewed the parents of people on the spectrum, but no one with autism themselves. Why not interview Temple Grandin in 2010 when Claire Danes portrayed her on film?

As someone who is both on the spectrum, and an entrepreneur (I started my own media nonprofit), I feel there are so few accurate portrayals in the media of people like me.

Interviewing the parents of people with autism is not wrong, especially when it is someone as well-known as Robert Smigel. But let me ask you this–would you only interview the parents of gay people? Of blind people? Of people with cancer? Of people with depression? My guess is that you wouldn’t. So why then only interview the parents of people with autism, or the scientists who study them?

Sure, people interview Jane Goodall and not the chimps. But surely people on the spectrum would make better interview subjects than Koko (who actually has been interviewed).

I am writing to you today to encourage you to help widen the lens of how we see people with autism.

As a person who has done such great work to illuminate so many different aspects of our society and culture, I feel this is something you could deftly handle.

People on the autism spectrum are just that–people. Will you help me get this message out? There are so many amazing people who just happen to be on the spectrum that you could interview–John Elder Robison, Ari Ne’eman, Tim Page, Dawn Prince-Hughes, Michelle Dawson, Amelia Baggs, or Jim Sinclair.

I understand that you’re the “fake news” but we both know that you’re more than that. Your show has become a cultural touchstone and is often the first place that people get any news, real or fake. Here is some real news that you could break.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with disabilities, mental health, aging and other needs. Jason was awarded an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education and Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from Syracuse University.  Jason is also a Project Coordinator and Research Associate at the Burton Blatt Institute, an international think tank for Disability Rights and Human Justice at Syracuse University.  He regularly contributes to the blog in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country consulting and speaking about disability issues and rights. To read more from Jason Harris, read Jason's View