Newsom to Jon Stewart: Smittcamp criticism “put me on my toes.”

California’s Governor isn’t letting the biting criticism from Fresno County’s top cop slide.

Gov. Gavin Newsom sought out the final word in his war of words with Fresno County District

This time, however, it was with former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart on his new Apple TV+ program, “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”


Driving the news: Stewart’s latest episode, which debuted on Friday, focuses on incarceration and the criminal justice system.

Stewart interviewed Newsom at San Quentin Prison following the Golden State governor’s announcement of a massive overhaul of the site, home to California’s death row.

The backstory: During the exchange, Stewart and Newsom focused on the contrast in parole and early release rules for California felons, comparing long-time prisoner Mary Reese and alleged Selma cop killer Nathaniel Dixon.

  • Reese committed a string of Los Angeles-based burglaries in 2007 and was sentenced to 35 years to life. After 12 years incarcerated, Newsom granted her a commutation, making the now 63-year-old eligible for parole.
  • Dixon was was convicted of second-degree felony robbery in 2019 and remained in Fresno County Jail until July 2020 when he was released on probation.
  • Dixon was subsequently re-arrested for carrying a loaded gun and possession of drugs. Due to Fresno County’s then-operative zero-dollar bail policy, Dixon was eligible for free release on the drug charge and only had to pay $10,000 for release on the gun charge.
  • In August 2020, Dixon was arrested for a third time on suspicion of five felonies and one misdemeanor, including possession of meth, being a felon with a firearm, and resisting a police officer.
  • Dixon was sentenced to over five years in prison for the various gun and drug charges going back to 2020. He was sentenced in March 2022 and was released in September after having built up time credits under California law. 
  • On Jan. 31, 2023, Dixon killed Selma Police Officer Gonzalo Carrasco Jr. prompting an outcry from Smittcamp about the state’s cavalier criminal justice reforms and a subsequent back-and-forth with Newsom.

What they’re saying: “We have a system that cannot tell the difference [between Reese and Dixon] and a public that demands certainty,” Stewart said of the differing standards of prisoner release.

  • Newsom argued that California has had no innovation within its incarceration and rehabilitation programs.
  • Stewart argued that a “reimagining” of criminal justice runs headlong into political reality. Newsom pushed back, citing criticism from Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, as “living the reality.”
  • “That person that killed that police officer – the District Attorney accused me of being responsible for that. I live the realities, I don’t know them – it’s not intellectual.
  • Stewart claimed it put Newsom on his heels. Newsom retorted that it “put him on his toes.”

Watch the back-and-forth:

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