Five takeaways from Bob Woodward’s interview with Stephen Colbert

Bob Woodward (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
Bob Woodward (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images) /

Stephen Colbert talked to Bob Woodward about his new book Rage and interviewing President Donald Trump

Stephen Colbert was off from The Late Show when audio of journalist Bob Woodward’s interview with President Donald Trump went public. Colbert made up for lost time on Monday night by speaking with Woodward about his book Rage and getting inside President Trump’s mind.

While Colbert wasn’t able to give his reaction to the news President Trump downplayed the severity of COVID-19 in real time, his fellow late-night hosts made sure to share their thoughts. Trevor Noah, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers were especially vocal in the wake of Woodward’s tapes going public.

Colbert touched on the subject during Monday night’s monologue. Most of the opening was dedicated to President Trump denying climate science in response to California’s ongoing fires. But similar themes came up during his interview with Bob Woodward in what was a must-see conversation with the legendary journalist. Here are five highlights from last night.

Nobody tried to stop Bob Woodward from speaking to President Trump

When the audio of President Trump describing the dangers of COVID-19 went public, it raised just as many questions as it provided answers. One key question was why President Trump agreed to speak with Bob Woodward in the first place.

Reports suggested that Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Senator Lindsey Graham helped organize the interview which ran for a total of 18 hours. On Monday night, Stephen Colbert asked Woodward why, given his history as a journalist and previous book on the Trump administration, Donald Trump agreed to the interviews.

According to Woodward, it was President Trump himself who made the decision. The journalist also indicated that nobody tried to prevent him from speaking with the president or vice versa, even as White House staff members deny involvement or suggest it was a mistake.

Bob Woodward thinks President Trump spoke with him out of boredom

We all have heard accounts and seen evidence to suggest that President Trump has plenty of free time on his hands while running the country.

This has led to hours and hours on the golf course, hours and hours watching television, and hours and hours on Twitter. It sounds as if running the United States of America just isn’t all that engaging for President Trump, causing him to seek out stimulation elsewhere.

According to Bob Woodward, that boredom is part of the reason President Trump agreed to speak with him for Rage. Woodward told Colbert:

"What happens, and we know this is part of the portrait of [Trump], he’s a one-man band. He decides, it’s the impulse. And in a way, I think around the White House–he doesn’t drink, that’s true–he’s the night prowler. He’s looking for something to do. And he picks up the phone and he calls people. And he called me. I talked to him 19 times, about seven of those he initiated."

President Trump ridiculed Bob Woodward for his views on Black Lives Matter

The second piece of audio that came after President Trump’s coronavirus confession was in regards to Black Lives Matter and white privilege. The president made it clear that he did not believe his race prevented him from understanding the plight of minorities and especially Black people.

Now we know how Bob Woodward reacted to that response. He told Stephen Colbert that the president scorned him and ridiculed him for “drinking the Kool-Aid.” Woodward suggests that hearing President Trump say this in his own words is much more powerful than reading it on the page.

Stephen Colbert doesn’t think Bob Woodward needed to come forward earlier

Bob Woodward also opened himself up to criticism when he released the audio of his interviews ahead of publishing Rage. Some thought that the journalist had a moral obligation to share what he knew earlier and possibly prevent the country’s death toll from rising to the levels it is at now.

But Stephen Colbert is not among those calling out Woodward. The Late Show host cited President Trump’s history of misleading statements and the prevailing evidence on COVID-19 as reasons why Woodward likely wouldn’t have made a difference by speaking out:

"I believe…that’s not necessary because we actually knew what the truth was and if you watched the president, you got a real sense that he was lying to cover up and save…the reputation of his administration. I don’t think that was secret knowledge the president was sharing with [Bob Woodward]."

Bob Woodward tried to advise President Trump on the coronavirus response

Bob Woodward was given unprecedented access to President Trump during the writing of Rage. This included his phone interviews as well as meeting with the president one-on-one in the Oval Office.

As Woodward tells Colbert, these White House interviews also turned into something of a brainstorming session on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Woodward revealed that he came up with a list of ways to mobilize against the virus and shared those steps with President Trump. We know that Woodward’s plan was never put into action. Colbert himself continually questions why we still don’t have a national plan in place for combating the novel coronavirus.

Woodward explained to Colbert the delicate line he had to walk between acting as a journalist and trying to help the country through his access to President Trump. Ultimately, it was another example of President Trump following his own instincts rather than heeding the advice of others.

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What do you think was the most interesting part of Stephen Colbert’s interview with Bob Woodward? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.