Note: The video in this article contains coarse language that may offend some viewers.
It was just two-and-a-half weeks ago that Stephen Colbert, CBS's “The Late Show” host, stirred up controversy on both sides of the aisle with a monologue about President Donald Trump. Closing with a crack about Trump's mouth only being good for performing sex acts on Vladimir Putin, the normally clean comic found himself offending much of the population.
A few days later, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that the FCC was, as is procedure, investigating the “Late Show” episode in light of receiving viewer complaints. To examine the nature and volume of the complaints, Independent Journal Review sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the FCC.
The FCC agreed to expedite the request, so it was fulfilled this week.
“We located over 5,700 complaints regarding the above program,” reads the response letter. “We are providing 100 samples of the complaints we located.” While considerable for something that happens on a TV show in the internet era, that figure is a small fraction of the record, “over 540,000” complaints received about Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl halftime performance.
Virtually all of the samples released to IJR under FOIA were submitted on May 2nd, the day after the show aired.
Of the 100 samples released by the FCC, 41 contain some variation of the word “homophobia.” Some others don't use the word, but indicate that frustration with that sentiment in the joke is the motivation for the complaint. Some curiously mention watching with young children, possibly indicating attempts at trolling, given the late hour of the show on a Monday night.
Other seemingly questionable complaints include a non sequitur saying that Colbert “is vile and as a Jewish man I demand CBS and the FCC hold him accountable.” One description of the segment (the sample on page one) that was copied and pasted from the New York Post's “Decider” entertainment website.
Due to the airing during the FCC's “safe harbor” period of 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., it is unlikely that action will be taken. The FCC actions of the past 15 years or so have generally dealt with prime-time network programs, local news, and radio shows that are not within the safe harbor period.