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"The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert stood steadfast Wednesday during his opening monologue while addressing the controversy surrounding a joke he made about President Donald Trump.
Colbert had joked about Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump engaging in oral sex, setting off a firestorm on Twitter.
The comments, which some interpreted as homophobic, birthed #FireColbert as a Twitter trend and a call from conservative viewers and Trump supporters to boycott Colbert’s advertisers. The hashtag has been tweeted approximately 350,000 times since Tuesday.
As Wednesday night's show began, Colbert first had to double check that he was still, in fact, host of the comedy program.
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“Welcome to The Late Show. I’m your host Stephen Colbert. Still? Am I still the host?” Colbert asked at the beginning of the monologue.
He then triumphantly announced, “I’m still the host!”
Colbert, tackled the accusations of homophobia, saying anyone who expresses authentic displays of love is an “American hero.”
“Life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person in their own way is, to me, an American hero,” Colbert said, adding he hoped that was the one thing he and the president could agree on.
Colbert made the controversial joke on Monday, saying that Trump had insulted a friend of his. Colbert was referring to CBS News' chief Washington correspondent John Dickerson. Trump had seemingly cut short an interview with Dickerson, which aired on Monday prior to the Late Show’s taping.
Colbert frequently talks about and derides Trump in his opening monologues, criticizing the president’s policies and statements, but for many, Colbert’s remarks on Monday night were a step too far.
On Tuesday, Colbert, his Twitter account and representatives for the show made no remarks about the joke, according to the Washington Post, staying quiet as the backlash seeped through social media.
“This would be a fireable offense in better times. Worst thing about many Trump critics is they use him as an excuse to act as awful or worse,” T. Becket Adams, a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner, tweeted.
Glenn Greenwald, of The Intercept, called Colbert’s remarks “homophobic.”
“Homophobia for the right cause, with the right targets, is good homophobia, apparently,” Greenwald wrote.
As the #FireColbert hashtag spread, the website firecolbert.com and the Twitter account @FireColbert sprung up.
Although admitting he would have used a few different words, Colbert stood behind his Monday night remarks.
“I believe he can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight,” Colbert said.
CBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment and it is unclear if any of the Late Show’s advertisers have been affected by the backlash.