Bully Pulpit: Colbert Demeaned Himself With Gutter Attack On Trump

Stephen Colbert damaged his own integrity with his vile attack on Donald Trump this week on “The Late Show” on CBS.

Getting down in a gutter to make a point about how he feels about the President of the United States was not a shrewd strategy. In so doing, Colbert put himself on the same level as his target. 

Satire such as the kind practiced by Colbert works better when delivered from higher ground. Colbert himself should have had the good sense to know this.

If he was experiencing a lapse in judgement that day, then CBS’s executive in charge of overseeing “The Late Show” should have stepped in and applied a blue pencil to some portions of Colbert’s monologue. 



This didn’t happen and Colbert took a beating the next day, particularly on the front page of The New York Post, where the headline described his Tuesday monologue as a “vulgar rant,” which it was.

The ostensible reason for Colbert’s attack on Trump was Trump’s disdain of John Dickerson, anchor of the CBS News show “Face the Nation,” when Dickerson interviewed the president in the White House last Saturday. The date -- April 29 -- was the 100th day of Trump’s administration.

In the interview, Trump told Dickerson he mocks the venerable news show by nicknaming it “Deface the Nation.”

Later, Trump abruptly ended the interview when Dickerson pressed him on the accusations Trump made earlier this year that the Obama administration wiretapped his private phones. Video of the incident has been replayed often on TV ever since.

In the final minute or two of his 12-minute monologue on Tuesday, Colbert took it upon himself to avenge Trump’s treatment of Dickerson with some of the most disgusting language ever heard on late-night television, which is saying a lot.

The vulgarity got underway earlier in the monologue when Colbert began laying the groundwork for his later attack on Trump over the Dickerson interview. Introducing a video clip of Dickerson asking Trump about his tax returns, Colbert had this to say:

“Mr. President, can you talk about your tax return as a metaphor for your penis?”

Then Trump was shown telling Dickerson, “I have a very big tax return.”

Then Colbert said, “We get it -- you have a huge tax return! But you know what would be nice? A full release!” There are some of us who still think material like this is gross. Are we in the minority today? Probably. 

That was only the beginning, however. With a few minutes left in his monologue, Colbert threw all caution to the wind and then delivered some of the worst monologue material that a major TV network ever let out into the air.

“Donald Trump, John Dickerson is a fair-minded journalist,” Colbert said, “and one of the most competent people who will ever walk into your office and you treat him like that. Now, John Dickerson has way too much dignity to trade insults with the President of the United States to his face, but I, sir, am no John Dickerson.

“Let me introduce you to something we call the Tiffany way. When you insult one member of the CBS family, you insult us all! Bazinga!”

Then the attack began in earnest. “Here we go,” Colbert said. “Mr. Trump? Your presidency? I love your presidency. I call it Disgrace the Nation!

“You’re not the POTUS, you’re the Blotus!

“You’re the glutton with the button! You’re a regular Gorge Washington! You’re the presi-dunce! But you’re turning into a real prick-tator!

“Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine! You have more people marching against you than cancer! You talk like a sign-language gorilla who got hit in the head!”

And here’s the line that set a new low standard in broadcast network comedy: “In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c--- holster!” Please note that this particular word was bleeped, but “prick,” as in “prick-tator,” was not. We truly live in a new media era.

The attack continued for a few more lines. “Your presidential library is going to be a kids’ menu and a couple of Juggs magazines! The only thing smaller than your hands is your tax returns! And you can take that any way you want!” Colbert declared as the monologue came to an end.

Colbert’s attacks on Trump this year are credited with elevating his ratings past Jimmy Fallon’s on NBC, and that may be true. But Tuesday’s disgusting monologue suggests that Colbert has grown arrogant. Gutter comedy should not become his way, “the Tiffany way” or CBS’s way.

10 comments about "Bully Pulpit: Colbert Demeaned Himself With Gutter Attack On Trump".
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  1. Bill Burnett from Good Citizen Media Group, May 4, 2017 at 1:18 p.m.

    Adam Buckman I am not a vulgarian and neither is Colbert, but we live in a vulgar time with the most vulgar leader ever in the White House and next to no one is doing anything to stop him.  Your delicate sensibilities won't stop him and neither will standard play-by-the-rules politics.  The fact that you align yourself with the New York Post shows your naivete. The Murdoch rag would of course go against Colbert. Colbert's barrage was a welcome attack on a man and an administration who richly deserves it and I look forward to more.  Perhaps derisive laughter is the only weapon that will save us.  And I do mean save us.  We are in grave danger.

  2. David Reich from Reich Communications, Inc., May 4, 2017 at 1:37 p.m.

    Adam, while I understand your point about not getting into the gutter with the target of your attacks, Trump's own actions and words just beg for others to climb down in the gutter with him.  It's about time.  We've seen where "the high road" has gotten us.

    By the way, maybe I'm just naive, but I can't figure out what word was bleeped when Colbert referred to Putin's "__ holster."

  3. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, May 4, 2017 at 2:14 p.m.

    Dear Adam,
    I have known you and your work for a long time.
    Our relationship has always been cordial and professional.

    One of my famous bosses said to me and my colleagues:
    "We must see the world as it is, not as we wish it would be."

    I respectfully disagree with your view of the world, CBS and Stephen Colbert.
    The actions that provoke the monolog you describe far outweigh the harm and pain
    that has and will be done in the next 4 years...should we survive that long...than anything Stephen Colbert has said.  

    Well done, Mr. Colbert.  Well done!!!

    Nicholas P. Schiavone

  4. charles bachrach from BCCLTD, May 4, 2017 at 2:29 p.m.

    Colbert is a STAND UP guy.  Smart, funny and very attuned to the world.  TRUMP is a useless
    (as is  his entire family and Administration) EGO maniac who has no clue about much of anything.  His older children are actually worse.  TRUMP needs to be impeached!  This country is NOT respected any longer by the World.  And Trump will probably get us into a war with North Korea among other places. 

  5. Rick Thomas from MediaRich Marketing, May 4, 2017 at 3:01 p.m.

    There was a time when men wore suits and women wore dresses to get on a plane.  A time where tank tops and shorts were not appropriate for eating at any restaurant.  A time when Johnny Carson told jokes that didn't need to be edited out of a broadcast and when talk of private parts was a broadcast no-no.

    Those days have passed.  Never, ever to return.  What's even more sad is we have a new generation that never experienced those days.  That is really sad.

  6. Bill Shane from Eastlan Ratings, May 4, 2017 at 3:13 p.m.

    I have almost always agreed with Adam, but not this time.  The Trump administration has led us into hell hole that'll take decades to dig out from.  Trump's leadership has been disgusting, so he deserves nothing less than frank and pointed remarks regardless of the words chosen.  Life's lesson is "you get what you give" and Trump has given us nothing but grief and a little bit of fear.  I say "BRAVO" to Stephen Colbert.  Please don't let the criticisms stop you.  After watching last night's show, apparently they won't.  By the way, I thought the Putin holster line was clever as hell.  Bravo again.

  7. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, May 4, 2017 at 3:14 p.m.

    Surely too many MediaPost readers have had enough of Adam Buckman's right wing biased rants when they require balanced reporting of TV shows from any number of real industry perspectives.  The report on Mr. Colbert's show could have certainly have asked questions regarding "suitable" content and potential effects on ratings, advertisers, etc. without castigating Mr. Colbert and by strong implication supporting our new Mussolini.  A late night show has a significantly different content bar compared to a Sunday morning news show like 'Face the Nation'.  The best defence of the atrocious comments and behaviour of Trump in his interview (partial!) with John Dickerson was unequivocally fair fodder for his CBS colleague Mr. Colbert.  Cannot wait to hear Bill Maher's comments on 'Real Time' HBO this coming Friday! Of course, the President's continued consistent buffoonery makes it far too easy for our comedians to develop brilliant relevant hillarious content.  Well played Mr. Colbert!  Very well played indeed!!

    Sadly Mr. Buckman continues to set new lows in Media, Marketing & Advertsing journalism in Media Post.  When are Joe Mandese and Ken Fadner going to address this blot on their publications and send him to the National Review where he belongs?  And Joe, Ken please don't give your devoted readers that, "We are an equal opportunity offender" twaddle! 

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 4, 2017 at 8:41 p.m.

    Colbert for President !!!!!!!

  9. John Grono from GAP Research, May 4, 2017 at 11:27 p.m.


    Adam, promise me you NEVER watch Australian television.   I'm still laughing at Cobert's segment.   If I wasn't laughing I'd be crying in realisation that The Orange Roughie is in The White House.

  10. Michael Weinstein from ContentRules, May 5, 2017 at 8:48 a.m.

    Adam-- I must disagree with your column. Michelle Obama has told us to go high when they go low. I agree that's what we should shoot for as much as possible. However, sometimes you can't go high with Trump (and his fellow Republicans). Sometimes you must go toe-to-toe with them on their level as a way of pushing back. Also, sometimes anger is a good thing to express. We hear it from right wing commentators ALL the time. It's not so bad for  for middle of the road or left wing commentators to grow a spine occasionally and express that anger. i thought his speech was smart and funny, except for the homophobic aspects of his comments on Putin and Trump.

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