There’s been ample amounts of praise for the choice of Stephen Colbert to succeed David Letterman as the host of CBS’ “Late Show,” but it was almost inevitable that the selection would be viewed as a partisan slap in the face.
Colbert rose to fame for his mockery of conservative punditry, and of Bill O’Reilly in particular, so it perhaps is not too much of a surprise that Rush Limbaugh announced on his show on Thursday that CBS has “declared war on the heartland of America,” undoubtedly stirring up his listeners but providing his target with even more material for his faux outrage.
“No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatives,” he said. “Now it’s just wide out in the open. What his hire means is a redefinition of what is ‘funny’ and a redefinition of what is comedy, and they’re blowing up the 11:30 format under the guide that the world’s changing and people don’t want the kind of comedy that Carson gave us or even Letterman.”
Colbert has announced that he will not be in character for his new gig, although unlike Letterman or Carson, he’ll be taking hosting duties as a figure who more has overtly leaned to the left. He testified, in and out of character, on farm labor and immigration in 2010, when Democrats still controlled the House. He was invited to a State Dinner at the White House this year, and was seated next to First Lady Michelle Obama.
O’Reilly, who criticized Colbert earlier this week for being one of the “biggest mouthpieces for the progressive movement,” and a powerful one at that, was not so harsh in a statement he gave to Time magazine, saying, “I hope Colbert will consider me for the Ed McMahon spot.”
Colbert did get more congratulatory messages from organizations like the USO, as he has entertained and visited troops in Iraq, as well as other military officials.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who once tried to discourage fellow lawmakers from appearing on the show, only to relent herself in 2012, posted a message on Twitter with a link to a GIF of Colbert spinning in a dance outside the Capitol.
The real politics around Colbert’s selection may be to come. CBS said a location for the show is still to be determined, as New York officials are seeking to keep the show in Manhattan and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and film czar Ken Ziffren are urging CBS’s Les Moonves to relocate to Los Angeles. The question is whether Colbert, sans his persona, would give up proximity to New York media figures and D.C. politicos to trek to L.A. and its access to Hollywood stars.