Stephen Colbert’s Diatribe Against Trump to Be Reviewed by FCC

Comedian Stephen Colbert’s profanity-tinged tirade against President Donald Trump, aired nationally on CBS, will be reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission because of viewer complaints, said Ajit Pai, the agency’s chairman.

“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,” Pai said in an interview on talk-radio station WPHT-AM in Philadelphia. CBS, the broadcaster of Colbert’s “The Late Show,” could face a fine, he said.

Colbert has said he stands by his May 1 monologue criticizing Trump for cutting short an interview with a CBS journalist, though the late-night host said he should have been less crude. One joke suggesting a sexual relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin drew criticism for being vulgar and homophobic.

The FCC regulates programming broadcast on television. Programs like “The Late Show” that air after 10 p.m. have looser rules, but they still are prohibited from including obscene content -- overtly sexual, offensive and lacking serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. It’s rare for the FCC to take action against a broadcaster under the rules, and Pai, who was selected by Trump to lead the agency, would face criticism himself if the FCC punished CBS.

“We have these rules on the books that we are duty-bound to enforce -- and I’m committed to enforce them,” Pai said in the radio interview. “Broadly speaking with respect to issues like free speech on campus or keeping government out of newsrooms, I’ve consistently said First Amendment protections are important and we need to protect them.”

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