Some of the best moments in late-night comedy are unexpected ones, and Stephen Colbert delivered a great one on Wednesday evening. On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Colbert shocked the world by apologizing to Donald Trump. Yes, you heard that correctly. Stephen Colbert issued an apology to President Donald Trump — and he claimed that it came in all sincerity.
Colbert's stunning apology came in response to what Trump sees as an all too common phenomenon these days: so-called "fake news" on CNN.
"Let me serve up some refreshment right now," Colbert began, innocuously. "And I mean this sincerely. I agree with Donald Trump about something."
Before giving too much time to let the suspense build, Colbert enlightened the audience as to what that mysterious something could be: "CNN lies."
He then explained that in a Late Show segment aired on Wednesday evening, former SNL comedian Dana Carvey made an appearance playing Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton. When CNN published an article about the segment the next morning, however, the headline was "Look who's playing John Bolton on SNL" — which Colbert took issue with.
"Fake news," he said, in a recognizable Donald Trump impression. "I take everything back. I apologize. Donald Trump is a great president."
"Come on, CNN, this isn't SNL," Colbert went on. "Unless you think SNL stands for 'Stephen's Nightly Laughs.'"
The difference between that show and his own, Colbert stressed, isn't a difficult one to decipher. "Here's how you can tell that clip wasn't on Saturday Night Live," he said. "It was a Wednesday, we tape during the daytime, and we're not live. You got three things wrong in three letters!"
"Still," he said in conclusion, "it's nice to be recognized — so thank you, MSNBC."
Those wanting to believe the comedian's sincerity, however, should be directed to the very beginning of the segment, in which he mentioned how successful the reboot of ABC's Roseanne had been. After the show drew 18 million viewers, Trump even called actress Roseanne Barr to congratulate her — which, many have observed, could also have to do with the fact that Roseanne, both in real life and as her character on the show, is a big fan of Trump's.
"It was a thrill to get a congratulatory phone call from The President of The United States of America. POTUS is the Fifth President I have received support from! what a life!" Barr tweeted on Thursday.
None of this was lost on Colbert.
"The reason why Trump crowed about [Roseanne's] ratings is that on the show, Roseanne, the character, agrees with Donald Trump, and a lot of people have called that refreshing," Colbert said to open the segment. "Well, I would like 18 million people to watch my show, so let me serve up some refreshment right now."
The refreshment, of course, is the apology — but so far, there's no sign that Colbert will get the same kind of recognition from the president as Roseanne did. Trump hasn't tweeted about the apology at all, and Colbert probably wouldn't keep it a secret if he had received a call from the president.
This could have something to do with opinions Colbert has expressed regarding the president in the past. He's insulted Trump for everything from Trump's State of the Union address to his intelligence to his physical condition. Taken together, it would be reasonable to conclude that Colbert didn't have a very high opinion of the president — which must be why he emphatically claimed in this segment that he was "[taking] everything back." Given all there is to take back, though, it's unlikely that this apology will gain Colbert any ground.