Louis C.K.'s friends in comedy are speaking out after several women accused the 50-year-old comedian of sexual misconduct in an article released by The New York Times last week.
On Tuesday's Today show, Jon Stewart addressed the allegations made by five women who say C.K. either asked if could masturbate in front of them, or masturbated in front of them without their consent. A day after the Times article was released, C.K. released a statement saying that the women's stories about him were true.
"You know, you give your friends a benefit of the doubt," Stewart, 54, told Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer. "I've had friends who've had compulsions and who have done things -- gambling or drinking or drugs -- and we've lost some of them. Some of them have died. You always find yourself back to a moment of, 'Did I miss something? Could I have done more?'"
Answering his own questions, the former host of The Daily Show continued, "I think we all could have."
"You feel anger at what he did to people," Stewart explained of C.K. "Look, comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women. I think it's gotten better over the years, but certainly when we started 30 years ago, it was really difficult. So to do it was an act of bravery in and of itself [for women]. The idea that there was this added layer of pressure and manipulation, and fear and humiliation -- and not just [him]."
Stewart still thinks the comedy world has a long way to go. "We're used to being in charge," he added. "And I think if you talk to women, they're in a very difficult position. You get mad at yourself, too, for laughing it off or for thinking, 'That didn't happen.'"
Stewart noted that he has not spoken with C.K. since hearing of the allegations.
C.K.'s longtime friend, Marc Maron, also addressed the scandal on his podcast, WTF, and claimed he asked the comedian about these rumors long before the release of the Times expose.
"I would ask him about it. I would say, ‘This story about you forcing these women to watch you jerk off, what is that, is that true?’ He goes, ‘No, it’s not true. It’s not real. It’s a rumor,’" Maron claimed. "And I would say, ‘Well, are you going to address it somehow? Handle it? Get out from under it whenever it shows up?’ ‘No I can’t, I can’t do that. I can’t give it life, give it air.’ That was the conversation.”
"So I believed my friend. It’s just that the environment enabled the dismissiveness of it," he continued. "It’s hard to understand that that power dynamic is real and it exists, because things have been the way they are for a long time."