Stephen Colbert regrets The Late Show interview with Donald Trump

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Stephen Colbert attends a special edition of 'The Bill Carter interview with Stephen Colbert' at the SiriusXM Studios on September 30, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Stephen Colbert attends a special edition of 'The Bill Carter interview with Stephen Colbert' at the SiriusXM Studios on September 30, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images) /

Stephen Colbert admits to Late Show missteps, including his “boring” interview with Donald Trump.

Stephen Colbert recently marked one year as host of The Late Show, which has struggled in the ratings throughout his short tenure, barely doing better among younger viewers than when David Letterman oversaw the program. The CBS late-night series has already undergone several reboots in an effort to expand its audience, including slight changes in format and behind-the-scenes, such as the hiring of CBS This Morning executive producer Chris Licht as showrunner. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Colbert reflected on some of the mistakes he’s made along the way, including taking it easy on Donald Trump when he visited the show late last year.

“I tried being gracious and pointed at the same time, and got almost nothing out of him,” Colbert admitted. “It was actually boring, because he wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Being nice to a guy who isn’t nice to other people, it doesn’t serve you that much.”

However, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have Trump back on his program again. In an interview with journalist Bill Carter on SiruisXM, the host called the Republican a “chicken” and “coward” for refusing to return to The Late Show, using clucking and squawking sounds to get his point across.

Colbert also clarified that he doesn’t “regret the attempt” in doing an interview with Trump, but that he does “regret that that’s probably the only bite I’m going to get at that apple.”

“I would have him on tomorrow, but he’s a coward … It’s clear that Donald Trump is a coward, because he won’t come back on the show,” he explained.

Watch footage from Colbert’s interview with Trump below:

His comments come in light of Trump’s Tonight Show interview with Jimmy Fallon, who was roundly criticized for going soft on the presidential candidate, including by Colbert’s former Daily Show colleague Samantha Bee. But Colbert defended Fallon, admitting that he doesn’t “understand the furor.”

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“I think the host has this obligation — to be honest with their audience,” he stated. “And you have to go with your honest instincts. My honest instinct is to ask at least one question of some kind of substance with your guest. Even if the person is there only to push something that is not substantive.”

He added, “For me, I have to do that with every person who represents a political idea. But that’s not every host’s responsibility. Every host’s responsibility is to be honest with themselves and with their audience about the kind of show that they do. So I fault no host who acts consistently and honestly.”

In the interview with the Times, the comedian went on to say that it was a mistake to stray too far away from what made him successful in the first place when he played a parody of a conservative pundit on The Colbert Report.

“I tried so hard to be myself that I kept on fading away,” he said. “It is all me. Of course it’s me. I thought of the character. It’s my humor.”

He continued, “If I do things that are like the old show, it was a good show.”

While Colbert resisted embracing his former persona at first, he’s since revived the character for his highly rated live episodes covering the conventions, during which he reunited with his former Daily Show boss Jon Stewart, who serves as executive producer on The Late Show. However, the move reportedly irked Comedy Central, which owns the rights to the character, prompting him to rework the popular segment “The Word” into “The Werd,” while claiming that the original character is dead, and that he is now playing his identical twin cousin.

“I have been advised not to answer your question,” Colbert said when asked how Comedy Central feels about him using some of the material he created while working for the network.

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While there are certainly challenges ahead, Colbert maintains that he now feels more comfortable in the role than he ever has before: “People were watching me learn to play a new instrument in public. Now I really don’t care and it’s so much more fun.”

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on CBS.