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Stephen Colbert Joins the Late-Night Parade in Humoring Instead of Challenging Donald Trump

By Dustin Rowles | Late Night TV | September 23, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Late Night TV | September 23, 2015 |

Maybe it’s because there’s 15 months left in the election season, and late-night hosts know that Trump is a good ratings get and they don’t want to alienate him too early, or maybe it’s because they simply don’t take him seriously enough to push back, but Stephen Colbert is the latest in a long line of talk-show hosts to humor Donald Trump rather than seriously challenge him.

Trump was on The Late Show last night, and rather than turn the interview into a truly substantive back-and-forth on policy, Colbert mostly used the opportunity to harmlessly mock the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. It was a joke-y affair. Colbert “apologized” to Trump for all the bad things he’s said about him in the hopes of getting Trump to return the apology. Colbert rattled off a list of statements and asked Trump if they were said by Trump or Colbert’s Colbert Report character (Trump got them all right). Colbert also pretended to be the President of Mexico and asked Trump to have a conversation with him about how he’d convince him to pick up the tab on a wall on the American/Mexican border, and that was an exchange that mostly went nowhere, but in which Trump came out unbruised.

And look, I get it. Having an actual debate with Trump is like having a debate with a nine year old: It’s not likely to go anywhere because Trump doesn’t know enough to have a real discussion. But it would also be nice if someone besides Fox News’ Megyn Kelly actually confronted Trump in a pointed way about his sexist remarks, his racist views, and his troubling policies. Someone in late night needs to throw a goddamn punch.

It’s easy to make jokes at Trump’s expense because he’s oblivious to the jokes, or doesn’t hear them, or just doesn’t care as long as he’s the center of attention. It’s harder to actually get under his skin. However, given that votes will be cast in just three and a half months in New Hampshire where Trump is leading, maybe it’s time for someone to stop being a good and gracious host and start being an advocate for sanity.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.