Talk show host Stephen Colbert may face action after the Federal Communications Commission finishes investigating his controversial comments about President Donald Trump made earlier this week, the FCC’s chief said Friday.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT on Thursday that a thorough investigation would be carried out, following which the agency will “take the appropriate action.”
The late night talk show host faced severe backlash after he cracked jokes about Trump on Monday, following the president's interview with CBS News that was cut short a day earlier. His monologue included a comment that did not sit well with Trump supporters.
“Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine,” Colbert said during the telecast. “You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c--- holster.”
Colbert’s comments opened the floodgates for the president’s supporters to create a Twitter hashtag, “#FireColbert.”
However, Colbert defended his monologue Wednesday by saying that he would not take back his words, but would use some other words instead of the “cruder” ones. He began by saying, “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,” Colbert said, while defending himself. He then added: “I had a few choice insults for the president… 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.”
The FCC chief said action would be taken if Colbert’s remarks were found to be “obscene.” According to the agency’s website, content must meet a three-tier Supreme Court test to be labelled “obscene.”
“It must appeal to an average person's prurient interest; depict or describe sexual conduct in a ‘patently offensive’ way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” the FCC website reads.
The time of the day when the broadcast takes place has a major role to play in what rules it is governed by, according to Pai. Before 10 p.m., the agency looks for speech that is considered “indecent” but the criteria changes to “obscene” content following that time period.
“The Late Show,” hosted by Colbert, goes on air at 11:35 p.m. EDT on CBS.
“We have received a number of complaints, as I said, and we’ll follow the standard operating procedures, as we always do, and make sure we evaluate what the facts are and apply the law fairly and fully,” Pai said Thursday.
“Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,” he said. "A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.”