Yes, you read that correctly, Stephen Colbert finds some aspects of Donald Trump’s persona “very appealing.”
Speaking to CBS News’s John Dickerson for an interview set to air this Sunday, the Late Show host praised Trump’s “populism,” saying, “The party elders would like him to go away but the people have decided that he is not going to.”
“I may disagree with anything that he’s saying and think that his proposals are a little — well, more than a little shocking,” Colbert continued. “But there is something really hopeful about the fact that, well, 36 percent of the likely voters want him, so the people in the machine don’t get to say otherwise. That’s the one saving grace, I think, of his candidacy.”
Asked by Dickerson if he actually has “respect” for Trump’s populist appeal, Colbert said, “What I do respect is that he knows it is an emotional appeal. And it might be emotional appeals that I can’t respect, but he knows that you have to appeal to the voter. And that’s why, I may be wrong—I made a big deal about there’s no way he’s gonna win.”
At this point in the conversation, Colbert stopped himself to explain, “I don’t know anything about politics,” an assertion that comes off as needlessly naive to anyone who spent nine years watching The Colbert Report. On this point, Dickerson once again pushed back, saying that Colbert does “have a sense of where the country is” emotionally, even if he claims to be ignorant of the political system.
“That’s one of the reasons I stopped the old show is that I had a sense where the country is,” Colbert said, echoing comments he’s made in the past about needing to let go of his right-wing alter ego. “I think people don’t really want constant divisiveness. I really don’t think they want that. And that’s what I was aping. And I thought, ‘I can’t really drink that cup anymore. Because I don’t think people really want to hear it.’”
During his three and a half months as host of the Late Show on CBS, Trump has been a near-constant presence. His premiere featured an elaborate bit that compared the GOP frontrunner to a box of Oreo cookies on which the host couldn’t resist bingeing. More recent shows have included some brutal commentary of Trump’s anti-refugee stance, among other controversial policy proposals.
Yet Colbert’s “respect” for Trump may have been revealed when he finally came face-to-face with the candidate just two weeks into his new gig. In a largely genial conversation, Colbert unironically complimented Trump for “setting the world on fire” and even apologized for saying some things about the candidate in the past “that in polite company are perhaps unforgivable.”
What could he have been referring to? Well, there was that one time he offered to donate $1 million from his Colbert Super PAC to the charity of Trump’s choosing if the real estate mogul met one condition: “You let me dip my balls in your mouth.”
Sure, it was crass, but it was said in character on a comedy show. What’s Trump’s excuse when he says things like Hillary Clinton “got schlonged” by Barack Obama?