There is a genre of Trump coverage that begins with the president of the United States deciding that an important thing for the commander in chief to talk about in an interview is the performance of television hosts, be it news, reality show or late night comedy, and their ratings. This is often accompanied by a counterfactual account of the president’s own place in all that. From there, what follows is a jumble of inter-related content that includes fact-checks, entertainer clap backs, and write-ups of the cathartic response, which in the end isn’t all that cathartic, since the subtext running through this is a bewildered acknowledgement that these are the times we live in.
In a Time magazine interview with the president published yesterday, it was Stephen Colbert who got a featured role among some shorter diatribes directed against other media personalities:
You see a no-talent guy like Colbert. There’s nothing funny about what he says. And what he says is filthy. And you have kids watching. And it only builds up my base. It only helps me, people like him. The guy was dying. By the way they were going to take him off television, then he started attacking me and he started doing better. But his show was dying. I’ve done his show. … But when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high—highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.
And on last night’s Late Show, Colbert had a message for the president. “The president of the United States has personally come after me, and my show, and there’s only one thing to say: yay.” Colbert paused before the “yay,” giggling and clapping his hands together joyfully.
“Mr. Trump, there’s a lot you don’t understand, but I never thought one of those things would be show business,” he continued. “Don’t you know I’ve been trying for a year to get you to say my name? And you were very restrained, admirably restrained, but now you did it. I won.”
It didn’t end there, and Colbert proceeded, smile on his face, with a series of one-liners:
“Oh please, don’t make me trend on Twitter again.”
“But you’re not wrong…I do occasionally use adult language, and I do it in public, instead of in the privacy of an Access Hollywood bus.”
“You know who’s got really bad ratings these days? You do. Terrible approval numbers. I hear they’re thinking about switching your time slot with Mike Pence.”
“But, since all of my success is clearly based on talking about you, if you really want to take me down there’s an obvious way: resign.
“A president going after someone telling jokes is unprecedented. That would be like Richard Nixon going after [Mad magazine mascot] Alfred E. Neuman.”
Watch the video below, and check out this bonus material from Vanity Fair, a fact-check about that “highest rating” claim.