The Mooch Is Surprisingly Muted on Stephen Colbert’s ‘The Late Show’ (Column)

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci defended the guy that fired him on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Courtesy of CBS

Anthony Scaramucci came out to boos on Monday’s edition of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” a previously scheduled appearance that could not have come at a more politically fraught time.

Scaramucci thoroughly trashed his public image, with astonishing speed, during his 10-day tenure as White House communications director; his appearance on Colbert’s show was an attempt at professional rehab, following a scheduled-and-then-canceled livestream event and a Sunday-morning interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

Scaramucci’s goal seems to be aggressively appearing to be a good sport about becoming the laughingstock of Washington — to Colbert, he repeated the oft-made joke that milk bought when he was hired lasted longer than he did in the White House. But when it comes to providing insight on the Trump administration, Scaramucci remains opaque. Following the deadly events of the weekend, where white supremacists created a deadly fracas in Charlottesville, Va., Scaramucci still chose to defend a president that has come in for criticism from politicos across the ideological spectrum.

It was serendipitously fitting that Scaramucci was a guest on “The Late Show” tonight; Colbert devoted most of his tight-lipped monologue to examining the president’s decision to refrain, for 48 hours, from outright condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists. It’s a (disturbing) communications decision, and one that Scaramucci might have been orchestrating if he were still in his post. Which is why it was baffling how little insight Scaramucci could or would offer on the topic. He tried to argue first that Trump had eventually said what he needed to say, which is all that matters, and that because Trump had made many “sacrifices” for the presidency, he was clearly an altruistic soul. In an unintended laugh line, he declared: “I know [Trump] as a compassionate person.”

But he ultimately couldn’t come up with more of an explanation for what Colbert described as screwing up “the easiest condemnation of all time.”

It may be altogether too difficult to be incisive about white supremacists — a blunt group with a blunt purpose — and it wasn’t just “The Late Show” that struggled a bit to find the humor on Monday night. But it’s astonishing that while Scaramucci is not above spinning complete garbage, he had no explanation for the 48-hour lag in condemning neo-Nazis. He presumably knows there is no good argument to make.

The bigger question, in our ongoing adventures tracking the careers of disgraced former Trump staffers, is why Scaramucci appeared to be invested in deflecting blame from Trump. He was surprisingly loath to vent about the administration that ruined his reputation, displaying a baffling loyalty that the Trump White House does not reciprocate. For someone who ostensibly enjoys joking around (at least, that’s how he was trying to explain that disastrous interview with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza), he wouldn’t take a dig at the man on top.

The only person Scaramucci was happy to ding was senior White House adviser Steve Bannon, the far-right political strategist who has rapidly become the most plausible fall guy for Trump’s current wave of criticism. Scaramucci openly despised Bannon already, so this wasn’t much of a revelation. Basically, Scaramucci might as well have been a Trump surrogate on tonight’s “The Late Show,” and that’s likely because he’s hoping he might still get the chance to be a Trump surrogate again. Going on Colbert and trying to get the next guy in the chain fired is a laughable state of affairs for the Trump administration, which would apparently make a pit of vipers seem cozy and comforting. But it’s slimy beyond belief that Trump would still be able to pit Scaramucci against Bannon for his own profit — even when one is no longer on his payroll anymore — just because the latter hopes to one day be back in the boss’ good graces.

It’s a state of affairs that is kind of numbingly exhausting, and that’s how Colbert seemed to feel after the Scaramucci interview. (While interviewing his second guest, actor Bob Odenkirk, Colbert joked that he’d just been speaking to a character like Odenkirk’s sleazy lawyer Jimmy McGill on “Better Call Saul” for the last 20 minutes.) Scaramucci was a dud of an interviewee — not because Colbert wasn’t trying, but because Scaramucci couldn’t be shaken away from his carefully inconclusive pro-Trump spin by the horror of Charlottesville’s white supremacist rally that left a 32-year-old woman dead. For a guy who (briefly) grabbed the public’s attention by sounding fearless, Scaramucci in his late-night debut delivered an astonishing display of bland cowardice.