“You take away the suits and the noise on these shows, and you’re left with just the person. That’s something that shows Stephen in a really good light.”
~Late-night veteran Conan O’Brien in “Variety” magazine
For my money, Stephen Colbert is one of the great political satirists of our time. From 2005 to 2014, Colbert was the host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report in which he portrayed a conservative political pundit. I first met Stephen at a “Stand Up for Heroes” charity event sponsored by the foundation established by Bob Woodruff (see his WINNER profile) in November 2007. We met again at the 2008 Emmy Awards both on the Red Carpet beforehand, and at the Governor’s Ball afterward. The latter encounter was memorialized in a photo taken outside a bathroom where I had held his Emmy. As you’ll learn in the paragraphs to follow, that photo would gain some notoriety a few short years later.
In 2011, Colbert established the Colbert PAC (a so-called “Super PAC”), and it produced ads asking voters in the Iowa Republican Straw Poll to write in Texas Governor Rick Perry’s name. The problem: the Colbert PAC ads encouraged voters to misspell the name as “Parry” with the “A for America.” While my instincts have always been to err on the side of caution in such matters and grant access to qualified parties, we declined to accept the ads in this case on grounds that their purpose was to cause confusion. As funny as the ads were, I didn’t want my station to aid and abet its clearly intended mischief. Interestingly enough, the other television stations in Des Moines did accept the ads – and take the Colbert PAC’s money – as was their prerogative. David Oxenford, a respected communications lawyer, would later write the following in a blog posting: “The station was not only within its rights to reject the ads, but had an even greater responsibility to vet the third-party ads since stations are theoretically responsible for the content in those ads.”
Well, it was obvious that Stephen didn’t buy our reasons for the rejection when he absolutely lampooned us off the top of his show on August 11, 2011. He personally dared me to “touch his Emmy” after pulling it out as a prop near the end of his rant. The next day I called Stephen to remind him that I had, in point of fact, touched his Emmy! It made for a light conversation and we shared a great laugh. Then on August 15, 2011, Stephen opened his show with “a rare apology” and went on to state: “(Ray Stephen opened his show with “a rare apology” and went on to say this: (Ray Cole) has touched my Emmy, and when you’ve touched my Emmy you have touched the very best part of me.” Stephen would later include the station’s news team in a follow-up satellite bit on August 18, 2011.
Stephen has long since moved on from The Colbert Report to succeed David Letterman as host of The Late Show on CBS. Fellow late-night veteran Conan O’Brien said the following in an interview for Variety magazine: “Stephen is a quality human being. You take away the suits and the noise on these shows, and you’re left with just the person. That’s something that shows Stephen in a really good light.” Colbert had been honored with a George Foster Peabody Award just one month prior to that Variety cover story in July 2021. Presented in the wake of the pandemic and stressful times in our country, the Peabody jurors recognized The Late Show for “combining comedy with genuine goodness at one of our darkest hours.”
Stephen is a one-of-a-kind WINNER who now owns nine Emmys and counting — more than I could hold in almost any situation. And definitely more than I could ever hold at one time in a men’s room.
Stephen Colbert “apologizes” to Ray Cole
Romenesko, Jim (August 17, 2011). “WOI-TV: Colbert PAC ad rejection ‘a close call’” Retrieved from www.poynter.org
Eggerton, John (August 31, 2011). “WOI’s Super PAC Smackdown” Retrieved from www.broadcastingcable.com
Last Updated: October 30, 2022