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Stephen Colbert addresses backlash to Kate Middleton jokes but stops short of apology

"But there’s a standard that I try to hold myself to, and that is I do not make light of somebody else’s tragedy," Colbert said on "The Late Show."
Stephen Colbert; Kate Middleton.
Stephen Colbert and Kate Middleton.Getty Images
/ Source: Variety

Stephen Colbert appeared remorseful during the March 25 episode of “The Late Show” while addressing Kate Middleton's recent announcement that she was diagnosed with cancer and is set to undergo preemptive chemotherapy.

The late night host addressed backlash he received for joking about Middleton’s whereabouts earlier in the month, a few weeks before the Princess of Wales confirmed her diagnosis to the world, but stopped short of offering an apology for those jokes.

“We do a lot of shows. I tell a lot of jokes. I tell jokes about a lot of different things, mostly about what everybody is talking about,” Colbert said. “For the last six weeks to two months, everybody has been talking about the mystery of Kate Middleton’s disappearance from public life. Two weeks ago, we did some jokes about that mystery."

"When I made those jokes, that upset some people…even before her diagnosis was revealed," he said. "I can understand that a lot of my jokes have upset people in the past and some of my jokes will upset people in the future, but there’s a standard that I try to hold myself to, and that is I do not make light of somebody else’s tragedy.”

“I don’t know if her prognosis is a tragic one … regardless of what it is, far too many of us know that any cancer diagnosis of any kind is harrowing for the patient and for their family,” Colbert continued. “Though I’m sure they don’t need it from me, I and everyone here at ‘The Late Show’ would like to extend our well-wishes and heartfelt hope that her recovery is swift and thorough.”

Colbert appeared to be addressing jokes he made on the March 13 episode of “The Late Show,” when he joked about Middleton’s disappearance from public life being linked to her husband’s alleged infidelity.

“The Kingdom has been all a flutter about the seeming disappearance of Kate Middleton,” Colbert said at the time. “Well now, internet sleuths are guessing that Kate’s absence may be related to her husband, and the future King of England, William, having an affair…According to tabloid, when Kate supposedly confronted him about it, he laughed it off, saying there was nothing to it. Always a good response when your wife accuses you of cheating.”

Middleton announced her cancer diagnosis in a video published on March 22. Since then, many celebrities have come forward expressing regret over theorizing and/or joking about her whereabouts during the weeks prior. Blake Lively recently posted an apology on Instagram for mocking Middleton’s “photoshop fails” before her cancer diagnosis was announced.

“I’m sure no one cares today but I feel like I have to acknowledge this,” Lively said in a message. “I made a silly post around the ‘photoshop fails’ frenzy, and oh man, that post has me mortified today. I’m sorry. Sending love and well wishes to all, always.”

Shortly before Middleton went public with her diagnosis, celebrity figures such as Jimmy Kimmel and Jamie Lee Curtis took to social media to rail against the conspiracy theories about Middleton’s whereabouts.

“She had an operation, she had abdominal surgery. Maybe she has a colostomy bag and doesn’t want everybody to see it,” Kimmel said. “I mean, really. People are demanding she get dressed up and march through London so we can have a look at her. Leave this woman alone!”

“Can we please just STOP with this bulls--- conspiracy theory?” Curtis wrote on her Instagram. “This is a human being with young children, and clearly some sort of a health issue. That is a private matter. Do we not have better things to do and more important things to think about and be concerned about than this? It’s a really low poin in our society when there are SO MANY crucial issues that need our attention.”

In her video post, Middleton said that while her condition was originally thought to be non-cancerous, cancer was found in her system following abdominal surgery and she is now in the “early stages” of preventative chemotherapy. She did not confirm the type of cancer.