Stephen Colbert is still dealing with the fallout that has occurred from an airing of "The Late Show," during which the CBS late night host let loose with a number of crude and obnoxious insults aimed directly at President Trump.
The lowest moment in Colbert’s opening monologue came when he crossed a cultural threshold by over-sexualizing his humor with an intolerably offensive line involving Russian President Vladimir Putin and the president.
Although the term Colbert used in his disgusting lack of witticism was censored for the purposes of the broadcast, it was unfortunately quite understandable to viewers the world over.
With regard to Colbert’s remarks, many took to social media to express their disdain. However, things really began to heat up when numerous Twitter and Facebook users labeled the late night host’s gutter talk as homophobic.
It was then that the hashtag #FireColbert began to spread throughout the web, calls for boycotts of the show’s sponsors appeared on social media sites, and even the mainstream media began to characterize Colbert’s choice of words as "controversial."
Since what had occurred involves broadcast television, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency has since been hit with complaints.
In an early interview about Colbert’s misuse of the airwaves, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai told Newsmax TV’s Steve Malzberg that unless Colbert’s remarks were deemed to be obscene, there would be no consequences. "By and large . . . the FCC, outside of our indecency rules, we don’t get into the business of regulating content," Pai said.
Pai sounded as if a recommendation for an investigation into the matter was not forthcoming. ". . . this is a politically polarized time, and I would hope that everyone, you, can participate in the public discourse in a way that is civil and operates in good faith. That’s certainly the way I’ve tried to conduct myself when I make public comments, but it’s a free country," Pai said.
But that was apparently before the commissioner had actually viewed and listened to Colbert’s unseemly segment. After Pai had the opportunity to watch Colbert’s opening, he made the decision to launch an investigation into the matter.
During a radio show interview with Philadelphia’s WPHT, Pai told host Rich Zeoli," I have had a chance to see the clip now, and so, as we get complaints — and we’ve gotten a number of them — we’re 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."
Pai added that if the FCC makes the determination that Colbert and CBS should be penalized, it would likely be in the form of a monetary consequence. "Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be," Pai said. "A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do."
The current law limits the ability of the FCC to punish broadcasters for the content of their programming. "The Late Show," which comes on at 11:30 pm Eastern time/Pacific time, is aired within the FCC's "safe harbor" time window before 6 a.m. or after 10 p.m.
Programming that is aired during the hours in which there is a high likelihood that children may be watching (between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.) provides the rationale for the FCC’s authority to regulate indecent material.
The rules were established to balance the constitutional right of free speech with the need to protect children, and their innocence, from harmful content.
As for his part, Colbert is unrepentant about his use of a sitting president as the object of such crude remarks. It seems his only regret is that some viewers thought the late-night host’s humor fell within the homophobic parameters.
Members of "The Late Show" team apparently attempted to placate the offended parties by bringing on as a guest the openly gay "Big Bang" star Jim Parsons to exonerate the host.
"You taught me new terms," Parsons said. "As a gay man, I didn’t know certain things . . . I wouldn’t call it homophobic. That’s just my take on your good form."
Regarding the rude and lewd remark, Colbert acknowledged that he would have altered his word choice. "So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be,” he said. "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."
Almost as if he were taunting the FCC, the do-anything-for-ratings CBS host doubled down on his disrespect by referring to the recent passage of a repeal and replacement of Obamacare as the Republican Party kicking America in the male anatomy.
Perhaps an FCC fine with enough punch will get Colbert to clean up his lines.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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