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Colbert's 'troubles' with FCC appear to be exaggerated

NBC's "Today" headlined a story this morning about the Federal Communications Commission's investigation into a crude comment made last week by CBS' late night host Stephen Colbert with the graphic: "No Joke!"

But all the attention that the FCC's investigation is getting for announcing it is looking into complaints about the offensive comment is practically a joke.

As I wrote when the offending portion of Colbert's rant against President Trump was posted online last Monday hours before "The Late Show" aired, I thought there could be some editing before the program aired because of two crude words, the most offensive being bleeped out.

It wasn't edited.

The FCC received some complaints, which routinely means it has to investigate.

It happens all the time.

Colbert went too far. But so have some media reports about the potential trouble he is in.

I imagine this is the one case that Colbert and Trump may even agree on how the media can exaggerate things.

"Today" substitute anchor Craig Melvin started this morning's report by saying that there was "new trouble" for Colbert.

Reporter Stephanie Gosk added "the problems for Stephen Colbert are not going away."

That sounded ominous. Then Gosk proceeded to explain that Colbert's mouth was covered when he made the offensive comment, which was bleeped out.

She added the comment was made during the "safe harbor" time, which meant it had to be deemed obscene for Colbert to be fined.

And she concluded by saying that the late-night host could come away "unscathed" and that the FCC said an investigation of a complaint doesn't speak to whether it has any merit.

It would be more shocking if the FCC did anything that would stand in court for the reasons that Gosk stated after the hyperbole that Colbert is in trouble.

Since the comment aired online hours before the "Late Show," it would be surprising if CBS' lawyers hadn't vetted it and concluded there was no problem as long as the word was bleeped out.

Colbert also received some backlash from those claiming his offensive comment was "homophobic."

But as I wrote last week, Jim Parsons, the openly gay star of TV's most popular comedy, "Big Bang Theory," said on Wednesday's show that he didn't find the joke homophobic. The clip of Parsons' comment was played this morning on "Today."

As others have pointed out, it also would be odd for the FCC to fine a comedian  for a comment made against a president who famously or infamously was heard using an offensive word in the "Access Hollywood" tape that revealed how he claims to treat women.

The one problem Colbert could face is the potential of losing audience. But anyone who has watched him for the last year or so knows that he is going to slam Trump nightly and most likely is enjoying it.

It actually wouldn't be surprising if all the controversy may actually increase his audience in the short term.

It appeared to do just that in Buffalo last week. On Thursday – the night after Colbert issued a non-apology – the program on Channel 4 almost doubled the audience for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" on Channel 2.

And that's no joke.


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