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Hail to the chief of late-night news! Parody or not, correspondents voted yea for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and its lead anchor (#735, Oct. 31). ''At last, a real star on the cover!'' cheers Jim Dooling of Fair Haven, N.J. ''This fake newsman Jon Stewart is a very funny truth-teller.'' June Gray of Richardson, Tex., even suggests: ''Jon should add his name to the 2004 presidential race, with Lewis Black as his running mate. They get my vote.'' In other patriot news, country fans came out for and against politically charged crooner Toby Keith. But San Antonio's Carolyn B. Henry believes there's no debating his legacy: ''Toby Keith was born to be a country legend and join the ranks of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash.'' Such status may be far off for actor and 5-Year Plan man Jeremy Piven, but his supporters seem campaign-ready. ''This man is truly underappreciated,'' attests Jen Reveles of West Covina, Calif., ''but all the best ones are.'' That's a platform we all agree on.

What's Old Is News

My issue arrived three days late. This was a slight inconvenience but not really a big deal. But then I saw the cover, and those ocean blue eyes of the gorgeous, talented, intelligent Jon Stewart staring out at me, and it became a big dealI have lost three days of swooning over this cover, easily my all-time favorite. (Oh, by the way, Bruce Fretts, great article, too.) MICHELLE FEARNLEY britone@iwon.com Denver

How could you leave out Jon Stewart's moving editorial after 9/11? His heartfelt and emotional speech was the most honest thing I'd ever witnessed by an on-air personality. I had followed his career for years, but his bravery cemented my loyalty forever. He's the real deal. He always tells it like it is, and we all appreciate him for it. CYNTHIA BARONE North Bellmore, N.Y.

I was ecstatic to see Jon Stewart on the cover. I have been a fan for years. In a time of war and a recall election, The Daily Show is where I tune in to see the facts of the day's events, fake or otherwise. So thank you, EW, for a glance at the humorous side of the news and for talking with Emmy winner Jon Stewart. SARAH DONALDSON Sarch5@aol.com Sodus, N.Y.

Enough Jon Stewart ass-kissing. If I want to see left-wing reporting delivered by someone with a lousy sense of humor and awful timing, I'll watch Dan Rather. ANTHONY BIALY Kenmore, N.Y.

Patriot Names

Toby Keith amazes me. Here's a guy who was upset at Natalie Maines because she felt his song ''Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue'' made country music look ignorant (''The Patriot Act''). Yet the guy turns around and displays a picture at his concert doctored to look like Natalie and Saddam Hussein are together? Not only are you ignorant, Toby...you're a hypocrite as well. BARRA TERRIGNO b.terrigno@comcast.net North Ridgeville, Ohio

Cuba Playa

After reading your piece on Cuba Gooding Jr. (News & Notes), I was surprised there was no mention of John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood, in which Cuba did an amazing job playing the dramatic character Tre. That is the film where I discovered him. He has proven that he is a great actor whether dramatic or comedic. SARAH BUCKMASTER tsbuck45@uci.net Harbor, Ore.

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