Stephen Colbert defends Larry Wilmore’s controversial White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech
Stephen Colbert opened Monday’s edition of The Late Show by praising Larry Wilmore for his speech during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner over the weekend that was met with scattered boos from the audience, and sparked outrage for his use of the N-word directed at President Obama. Colbert delivered a controversial WHCD roast of George W. Bush in 2006, which seemed to precipitate his show of support for the comedian who took over his time slot on Comedy Central.
Colbert’s began his shout-out to The Nightly Show host and his “good friend” by joking that he stunned the audience because “people in Washington aren’t used to seeing two black men perform at the same event,” before addressing the N-word controversy, and even getting in a dig at Donald Trump.
“There was a little controversy, a moment at the end where Larry said the N-word, and it was shocking but it did lay the groundwork for President Trump to say it next year,” Colbert said. “It’s out there now. You can imagine it.”
He went on to praise Wilmore for his “great speech that didn’t let the president or the press off the hook,” and stated that he felt “confident that Larry will receive the ultimate recognition for his work: Never being invited back.” Instead, Colbert invited him to watch the event with him next year.
Colbert’s Late Show opening monologue also touched on changes to the TSA’s policies, Bitcoin’s creator coming forward and the Ringling Brothers conducting their final performance with elephants over the weekend. Watch the clip below:
Wilmore’s correspondents’ dinner speech took square aim at the media, particularly CNN personalities Wolf Blitzer and Don Lemon, who flipped him the bird in response to a joke where he was called an “alleged journalist.” But the most talked about moment came at the end of the speech where Wilmore referred to Obama as “my n—-.”
“When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback,” Wilmore said at the event. “Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world. Yo, Barry, you did it my n—-!”
However, the White House defended the reference the following day, with press secretary Josh Earnest explaining to the press corp that the president “appreciated the spirit of the sentiments that Mr. Wilmore expressed.” Wilmore also defended his routine and use of the N-word during Monday’s installment of The Nightly Show by calling the word a “colloquialism,” and explained to Piers Morgan – who wrote a column for The Daily Mail critiquing the use of the word – why it’s not the same as the differently spelled racial epithet, calling out his failure to “conjugate the slur” – but admitted that he understood why people were upset about it. Others who expressed outrage over the use of the term included African-Americans like Washington Post writer Jonathan Capehart and Al Sharpton, who was also the butt of one of Wilmore’s jokes over his hairstyle and support for Hillary Clinton.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on CBS, while The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore can be seen Monday to Thursday at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.