The Federal Communications Commission said Friday it’s investigating late night television host Stephen Colbert over his potty-mouthed rant against Donald Trump on Monday. This follows the agency receiving “a number of complaints” about Colbert’s 12 minute monologue on CBS’ The Late Show. The monologue has been widely denounced as disrespectful, homophobic and not funny.
The FCC’s new commissioner, Trump appointee Ajit Pai, promised to take “appropriate action” following a thorough investigation.
Colbert’s stream of insults against Trump culminated in a lewd reference to the President performing oral sex on Vladimir Putin: “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 cock holster,” said Colbert in the rant (the Late Show is pretaped, and CBS bleeped out the word “cock”).
The oral sex joke has been criticized as being “homophobic”. The liberal comedian’s remarks also prompted some Trump supporters to create a #FireColbert Twitter trend.
“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,” said Pai in an interview with Talk Radio 1210 WPHT.
“Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,” he added. “A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.”
In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto, Pai explained that broadcast television follows specific sets of rules depending on the time of day. The FCC flags “indecent” speech aired before 10pm. Colbert’s TV show airs at 11:35pm ET so there is a lower standard of decency.
Colbert himself has remained unapologetic, refusing to apologize and just saying he might have chosen his words more carefully.
According to FCC regulations on its website, all content aired on broadcast TV must meet a three-tier Supreme Court test to be considered “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 says.
Or as the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”
CBS got into hot water with the FCC in 2004, due to Janet Jackson’s notorious “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl. The government eventually fined CBS a record $550,000 over the exposed breast, although the fine was appealed and eventually thrown out.