On Monday's “Late Show,” host Stephen Colbert tore into President Trump, making a particularly controversial, and sexual, joke that has landed him in hot water.
In the midst of the initial outrage, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — which enforces U.S. communications laws and regulations — told Fox Business host Neil Cavuto that, even on Wednesday, he had yet to see the Colbert clip and didn't want to “prejudge” anything.
However, after watching the clip a day later, Chairman Pai made it clear that there would be a “comprehensive investigation” into the joke that many have labeled “obscene”:
While the FCC doesn't regularly police broadcast television content, Pai explained that anytime that the agency does receive complaints, it “will take a look at the facts that are alleged and apply the law.”
In terms of what might constitute a punishable offense, Pai said that much of what determines if content is acceptable or not hinges on the time of day that the program airs:
"The law here has one set of rules, that would respect 'indecency,' that apply before 10 p.m.
And after 10 p.m., there's a set of rules that relate to 'obscenity' that apply. And again, we'll take a look at the facts and the law if the situation so requires."
Colbert's “Late Show” airs at 11:35 p.m. EST, putting it well within the “obscene” threshold, even though he made the controversial joke in the opening monologue:
While Pai seemed hesitant to weigh in on Wednesday, it seemed that something had changed by the next day, after he had actually viewed the controversial Colbert clip.
In an interview with Talk Radio 1210 WPHT on Thursday, Pai said that there would be a “comprehensive investigation” into Colbert's comment, adding:
“I have had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints, and we’ve gotten a number of them, 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.”
If the FCC does determine Colbert's joke to be a violation, Pai said that it will be up to the agency to decide “what the appropriate remedy should be,” but that it would most likely be a fine of some sort.
Colbert, for his part, hasn't quite apologized for the Trump joke, but did say that — if he was given the chance to do it over again — that he “would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be.”