CULTURE | Colbert says he would say it again, but would change a few words
Your freedom of speech may put your job in jeopardy
When you have to censor your jokes, is that even comedy? Isn't it supposed to be sort of wrong? On Wednesday evening's edition for the "Late Show," Stephen Colbert responds to criticism of the joke about President Trump that began the trend to hashtag #firecolbert and demanding a boycott those who advertise on the "Late Show." He has not said anything that shocking, especially with a long tradition of late-night talk show hosts blasting every action, every president in history has made. It is a way people can cathartically commiserate the state of the union.
Perhaps his choice of words were insensitive and the subtext may have offended some. It's still just poking fun at the POTUS's expense. You would think, as arguably the most powerful man in the world, he could take the criticism in stride knowing that his opinion is the only one that matters.
A spokeswoman from CBS's "Late Show" and Colbert's agent did not respond to requests for comment. CBS sent out a transcript of the top of Colbert's Wednesday night show, which taped earlier in the day. He addressed the controversy in the opening moment, joking, "Welcome to 'The Late Show.' I'm your host, Stephen Colbert. Still? I am still the host? I'm still the host!!"
"So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be," the talk show host said to his audience during the taping which would air Wednesday night.
He went on to say,"I'm not going to repeat the phrase, but I just want to say for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person, in their own way, is to me, an American hero. I think we can all agree on that. I hope even the president and I can agree on that. Nothing else. But, that."
"Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. So at the end of that monologue I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don't regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it's a fair fight."
Though President Trump has for months been the target of Stephen Colbert's pointed jokes and mockery, many on social media believe he went too far Monday night in making an oral-sex joke regarding Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The anger that Trump thin-skinned supporters had over a relentless series of jokes by Colbert in the last two minutes of his monologue on Monday night, was a reaction to how the POTUS dealt with John Dickerson, CBS News' political director. He then turned to how Trump abruptly ended the interview with Dickerson, after the "Face the Nation" host asked him if he stands by his claims that President Barack Obama had wiretapped him.
Trump response to Dickerson was that he "I don't stand by anything."
Colbert commented on it by saying, "It's true. He doesn't stand by anything except the dressing room door at Miss USA Pageant. . . . Who needs a lotion?"
"It's a free country. People are willing and able to say just about anything these days," Pai said, adding later that unless a content is indecent, obscene or profane by FCC standards, the agency's authority is "pretty limited."
Furious Trump supporters immediately began tweeting, saying Colbert's jokes were homophobic. Very convenient for them to choose an issue of his jibe that most of Trump's well wishers would be the most guilty of making. Their jokes would be much more direct. It must take on to know one.
#FireColbert was trending on Twitter Wednesday morning. A new Twitter account called @firecolbert tweeted: "It's time to #FireColbert! It's time he be removed from CBS. Let your voice be heard! #Boycott all of Stephen Colbert's advertisers." There's also a new website, firecolbert.com.
Colbert's monologues largely focus on the debacles of the Trump administration. This hasn't hurt his popularity. Last year, he was trailing far behind Jimmy Fallon's "The Tonight Show." Colbert managed to narrow the gap and eventually top his biggest competitor. By late March, Colbert's show was averaging a drawing an audience of just about 3 million, beating out "The Tonight Show" by 400,000.
But as The Washington Post's Callum Borchers wrote, by joking about oral sex, Colbert "rushed the bro-ternity" of Alex Jones, who once said that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., "looks like the archetypal c--sucker," and Jesse Watters, who came under fire for a not-so-subtle joke about Ivanka Trump "speaking into that microphone."
"They wrote this. This was not a rant that he came up with on the top of this head. They wrote this," Rove said, adding later: "I'm going to continue to do what I do with anything Colbert. I'm going to refuse to watch the SOB."
Sitting on a panel on "The Fox News Specialists" on Tuesday, Karl Rove, who was a senior adviser in the administration of former president George W. Bush, called the jokes "lewd," "obscene" and "inappropriate."
Then those defending Colbert hijacked the trending hashtag with sarcastic jabs at Colbert's critics:
Colbert began his monologue Monday night by making fun of Trump's comments about the first 100 days in office, which the president called a "ridiculous standard."
"Trump has repeatedly said that this 100 days is totally arbitrary, okay. Totally unimportant. And to prove how unimportant it is, he took out a TV ad, he cut a cake on Air Force One, and he held a rally in Pennsylvania," Colbert said. "The theme of that rally, 'Promises Made, Promises Kept.' Which is better than the original slogan, 'Promises made, never mind, never said it, fake news, watch Fox & Friends.' "
Colbert's full statement:
CBS sent out a transcript of the top of Colbert's Wednesday night show, which taped earlier in the day. He addressed the controversy in the opening moment, joking, "Welcome to 'The Late Show.' I'm your host, Stephen Colbert. Still? I am still the host? I'm still the host!!"
He went on: "Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. So at the end of that monologue I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don't regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it's a fair fight."
"So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be," he concluded. "I'm not going to repeat the phrase, but I just want to say for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person, in their own way, is to me, an American hero. I think we can all agree on that. I hope even the president and I can agree on that. Nothing else. But, that."
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The Trump-Twitter Industrial Complex continues to fester and mutate.
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He wrote that secretaries of state were sending mail-in ballots to every person, when actually states are only sending out ballot applications. For the first time, Twitter jumped in to fact-check Trump's statement, adding a link to a webpage full of information about mail-in ballots.
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Was the Jimmy Fallon Blackface Skit Intentionally Released as a Distraction from the Murder of George Floyd?
Racist police violence is a modern epidemic. So why are we talking about an SNL skit from 2000?
At this point, celebrity apologies are incredibly common. In 2020, it seems like some formerly beloved actor or TV personality is being put through the wringer of public opinion a few times a week.
Most recently, Twitter canceled Jimmy Fallon after an unquestionably racist skit from the 2000 season of SNL resurfaced online. The skit features Fallon impersonating Chris Rock, complete with black face and an offensive imitation of Rock's speech patterns.
Jimmy Fallon Blackface youtu.be
This quickly led to the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty trending on Twitter. While fans seemed split on whether Fallon should be forgiven for the 20-year-old misstep, most everyone agreed that Fallon should apologize regardless. This morning, he did just that in the form of a tweet.
As far as celebrity apologies go, Fallon's is a pretty good one. He doesn't try to sidestep the blame, he doesn't bring up the fact that there were undoubtedly many, many other individuals involved in the creation of the skit, and he doesn't even mention the fact that in 2000, many people still thought it was possible for black face to be done in the spirit of fun, because the deeply racist nature of the act was largely ignored in mainstream (white) media. Of course, we know better now, and it's easy to see that a white person doing an exaggerated imitation of a black person—darkened skin included—can only be a racist, belittling act with a long, dark history of racial oppression. With that in mind, Fallon's only option was to apologize without caveat or reservation. Indeed, it's refreshing to see a celebrity apology that doesn't try to justify or minimize their own misstep. While we can all agree Fallon made a terrible, racist choice 20 years ago, we have to believe that, like all of us, he's grown since then. If cancel culture is to have any efficacy in making the world a better place, it has to leave room for forgiveness and growth. Hopefully, the whole affair will leave Fallon (and those who witnessed it) more racially sensitive.
All of that being said, one has to ask why the clip was brought up now, given that it's been circulated around the Internet before, and the specific YouTube clip that was shared was posted on the site over a year ago. It's also worth noting that the version of the clip that was going around Twitter has a text overlay that reads: "NBC FIRED MEGAN KELLY FOR MENTIONING BLACKFACE. JIMMY FALLON PERFORMED ON NBC IN BLACKFACE."
Megan Kelly, an outspoken conservative, was indeed fired from her job at NBC because she defended the use of blackface in Halloween costumes, saying on her talk show, "Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween," she said. "When I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character." While Fallon's instance of racial insensitivity was in 2000, Kelly defended blackface in 2019, long after society at large had begun to acknowledge the hurt that blackface and other forms of racial impersonation could cause. This fundamental difference aside, Kelly also has a long history of racial insensitivity that Fallon does not, even once saying, "What is the evidence that what happened to Eric Garner and what happened to Michael Brown has anything to do with race?" in a conversation about the epidemic of racist police officers in America.
Given the text overlay, it's pretty clear that whoever began the #jimmyfallonisoverparty was not necessarily seeking justice for the black community, but was instead trying to imply hypocrisy in the cancellation of Megan Kelly, given that Fallon (who has been outspoken about the flaws of the Trump administration and political pundits like Kelly) is still on the air. One even has to wonder if, given that it's obvious that the #jimmyfallonisoverparty trend was begun by a conservative individual or group, if the trend was meant to be a distraction from the widespread racist police violence that has been emphasized in recent weeks by incidents like the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer on Monday. It seems oddly coincidental that the clip of Fallon should flood the Internet with controversy the day after Floyd's murder, unfortunately serving to help steer conversation away from Floyd's unjust death.
Indeed, under the unquestionably racist Donald Trump administration, more and more black people are being harassed, attacked, and murdered at the hands of racist white civilians and police officers. But Trump and his supporters don't want you to focus on that–so much so that it doesn't feel impossible that the Fallon skit was intentionally weaponized as a distraction.
In the last few weeks alone we learned that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered senselessly by a white man while simply out for a jog, and we all witnessed the harassment of Christian Cooper, a black man who was threatened by a white woman in Central Park who didn't want to put her dog on a leash. It's clear that racism in America cannot be reduced to insensitive skits from 20 years ago but is instead a current and deadly problem. What Jimmy Fallon did in 2000 was racist, yes; but don't let that distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in 2020, don't let celebrity apologies make you take your eyes of our lawmakers, who aren't doing enough to protect people of color in this country. Don't let the latest "#_____isoverparty" trend distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in our laws, culture, and criminal justice system.
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