A Wikileaks Email to Clinton's Campaign Manager About The Colbert Report Confirms What We Thought All Along

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Non-liberal viewers who may have gotten lost scouring through channels may have once been exposed to the antics of faux-conservative Stephen Colbert of the “comedy” show The Colbert Report. It ran on Comedy Central until two years ago, after compiling 1,447 episodes of smarmy hit jobs on the “less-than-sophisticated” patriotic conservative segment of the US population.

Colbert's over-the-top caricature of middle America and its values was occasionally funny, but the effect is spoiled once one realizes the hidden political agenda of the show: Pose as “comedy” to score cheap political points against the Democrats' opponents.

Because, why would anyone take comedy seriously? It's just comedy, right?

A hacked Wikileaks email to John Podesta, Clinton's campaign manager and head of the Center for American Progress, has been recently released. For Podesta's retort to the Wikileaks emails, one can read his responses here. (As an advisory, although the accuracy of such hacked emails overall hasn't been explicitly disputed, there is always a danger of an email being faked.)

Closely parsed, the email gives an inside look into the political activism of such “fake news” shows as Colbert's:


I hope you got a chance to see the The Colbert Report's two special episodes i had them do about CGI U that we taped in St. Louis this weekend. This is the link to last nights with a sketch about commitments and the monologue and WJC interview aired Monday. Hope you enjoy and looking forward to your feedback. Next will be your Colbert appearance!


Stephen Colbert helped moderate an event with Bill Clinton for the Clinton Global Initiative in 2013, which is within ethical guidelines for an entertainer. But the email shows two special episodes were done at the behest of Podesta: this is a clear use of entertainment as “public relations” for a political operator.

A recent media complaint is that “fake news” has permeated the public sphere, and as such, there are claims that it can partly be held responsible for Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump in the presidential election. In addition to such rebuttals from Facebook's COO that this is not the case and the clear point, “we have First Amendment rights,” there is the matter of the left explicitly blurring the lines on “fake news” for over a decade on Comedy Central.

Recently, Buzzfeed News did a survey on “fake news,” essentially complaining about its influence on Facebook. While it is mainly posed as a “conservative problem,” the San Francisco Gate explains that the problem is widespread on the political left, as well:

While a majority of the top-performing fake news stories leading up to the election had a pro-Trump bias, it's not just conservatives who are falling for fake news. In a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News, 71 percent of self-identifying Democrats surveyed mistook fake news headlines for real stories. Those who identify as Republicans fell for the false headlines at a higher rate, with 84 percent of those surveyed believing they were true.

But even if conservatives are consuming and sharing fake news at a higher rate, it is clear that liberals are not immune. Of the 60 top-performing fake news stories that BuzzFeed analyzed, 19 seemed to be targeting Hillary Clinton and/or Bernie Sanders supporters.

This drives right to the heart of the problem for former popular shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show (which is currently being hosted by Trevor Noah, instead of the highly influential Jon Stewart). It is “fake news,” by definition, and “progressives” don't have a problem with it—even if people trust it more than actual news.

A 2014 survey of the media from PRRI/Brookings showed that viewers' trust in The Daily Show was higher than CNN, far higher than MSNBC, and the same as public television.


Stephen Colbert has carried on from his Comedy Central gig to a late night hosting slot on CBS. No surprise: Colbert the actor and the host share the same left-ward partisan leanings. AS IJR reported earlier, the show's hyper-partisan tinge has driven away potential viewers due to its political bent.

As Kyle Smith of the New York Post summarized in late 2015: “Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ has become propaganda for Democrats.”


Editor's note:

There appears to be some confusion about whether or not the article is arguing that satire and comedy are literally the same as “fake news.” They are obviously not the same thing; but the general effect of leading viewers to believe in certain notions may functionally be similar.

For example, many still believe that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin literally said “I can see Russia from my house!,” although that was Tina Fey in an SNL skit.

In regards to the “fake news” line used in the story, it is an ironic riff on something that has been said of Jon Stewart. Quoting the Columbia Journalism Review:

Just before his famous confrontation with Tucker Carlson on CNN ’s Crossfire two years ago, Jon Stewart was introduced as “the most trusted name in fake news.” No argument there. Stewart, as everyone knows, is the host of The Daily Show, a satirical news program that has been running since 1996 and has spun off the equally funny and successful Colbert Report.

This article is a brief discussion of political influence on The Colbert Report and similarities in audience effects between satire and “fake news.” It is not an argument making a false equivalency. If one believes one is getting “comedy,” but is actually getting messages from political actors, then one is being misled and should be informed about it.