Stephen Colbert faced major backlash following Monday night’s airing of The Late Show. During his opening monologue, the comedian made explicit jokes about U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin engaging in oral sex, according to The Hill.
Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, assured the public that the FCC would “take the appropriate action” following a comprehensive investigation of Colbert’s remarks. Pai revealed on the Fox Business Network that if the agency receives complaints, it “will take a look at the facts that are alleged and apply the law.”
“We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action.”
“We review all consumer complaints as a matter of standard practice and rely on the law to determine whether action is warranted. The fact that a complaint is reviewed doesn’t speak one way or another as to whether it has any merit… I have had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints — and we’ve gotten a number of them.”
In 2012, Pai was appointed to the FCC by former President Barack Obama. He was then elevated to the chairmanship of the commission by Trump in January. Just two years later, the #CancelColbert hashtag arose in 2014 after Colbert made comments that were perceived to be an insult to Asians and Asian-Americans, as per Variety.
Pai revealed to Talk Radio 1210 WPHT on Thursday that the agency makes the final decision. The FCC spokesman went into depth about the review process with CNN Money. After a viewer complaint is filed, it’s forwarded to FCC staff for review.
“Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be… A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.”
The Trump-Putin sex joke was in response to Colbert’s CBS colleague John Dickerson’s Face the Nation interview with President Trump, according to Fox Business. The interview was cut short after he repeatedly pressed President Trump on his wiretapping claims. Colbert noted, “Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine.”
The network blurred Colbert’s mouth and the controversial terms were bleeped during airing, “The only thing [Trump’s] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c*** holster.” The FCC’s response will depend on whether Colbert’s remarks are considered “obscene,” according to The Hill. If so, the broadcaster would be penalized.
The hashtag #FireColbert began spreading around Twitter, along with calls for people to boycott sponsors of the late-night show.
On Wednesday, Colbert responded to the Trump-Putin controversy. The Late Show host revealed that he regretted some things about his monologue. Colbert said he would alter some phrases and “change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be.”
“So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be… 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.”
The FCC flags material considered to be “indecent” before 10:00 p.m. The Late Show airs outside the FCC’s “safe harbor” time frame from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m, according to The Hill. Colbert’s The Late Show airs at 11:35 p.m. ET on CBS. During this time, the commission has the authority to police allegations of “indecent” and “obscene” material on the airwaves.
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