What was Stephen Colbert saying about Trump at this time four years ago?

Stephen Colbert (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)
Stephen Colbert (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images) /

Joe Biden looks like he’ll win the election in a landslide but Stephen Colbert has been down this road before

Nearly every poll suggests that former Vice President Joe Biden will defeat President Donald Trump in what could be a landslide. But as America learned four years ago, the polls aren’t always accurate. Stephen Colbert knows this fact as well as anyone.

Colbert’s rise to the top of late-night got a major boost thanks to his coverage during the 2016 election cycle. Bits like “The Hungry for Power Games” during the primaries and the cartoon versions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton helped set The Late Show apart from other shows.

It was also a time when Donald Trump the candidate was giving Colbert the kind of material a comedian could only dream about. Trump’s gaffes, scandals, and ignorance made for punchline after punchline as Colbert was able to dedicate more of his monologues to the former Apprentice host.

Few people predicted that Trump’s campaign was anything more than a publicity stunt. But then a movement started growing behind the real estate mogul and the country watched as seasoned politician after seasoned politician dropped out of contention until only Trump was left standing.

Even still, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would easily defeat Trump and become the first female president and continue the Democrats’ hold on the White House.

We all know how the election turned out and where it got us to today. Other than Stephen Colbert’s position atop late-night, nobody could have predicted the past four years.

The polls suggest that lightning won’t strike twice for Donald Trump. His impeachment, countless scandals, and the pandemic appear to be insurmountable especially when facing an opponent like Joe Biden.

But 2016 provided a valuable lesson about being complacent and putting too much faith in the polls. Colbert can certainly be guilty of that as evident by his coverage of Trump vs. Clinton back in 2016.

Stephen Colbert thought the Access Hollywood tape would derail Trump’s campaign

On Columbus Day in 2016, Stephen Colbert broadcast from home in a weird coincidence. Who knew that four years later, so much of The Late Show would have come from Colbert’s home?

But unlike in 2020, 2016 actually featured a second presidential debate. The second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton came just after the infamous Access Hollywood tape was released.

It was an immediate scandal and rightly so. Many predicted it would be the end of Donald Trump’s campaign and something from which he could never recover. Colbert was among them, calling the tape disturbing.

Four years ago, Colbert was still making jokes about Donald Trump using various substances to stay alert. And Hillary Clinton remains free from prison despite Trump’s promises during the second debate. Empty threats would become a common theme in the Trump presidency and something Colbert was routinely required to respond to during his monologues.

Does anyone remember the flies landing on Hillary Clinton during the debate? Who knew that four years later, a fly would once again play a major role in a debate.

It is hard to imagine any other politician before Donald Trump coming back from a scandal like the Access Hollywood tape. Yet Trump proved to be indestructible, shocking Stephen Colbert. The comedian’s tone throughout this monologue is one of confidence in believing Trump’s time in the spotlight was coming to an end.

Stephen Colbert knew that Donald Trump was indefensible

Speaking of those whose time in the spotlight ended, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was a guest of The Late Show around this time in 2016. Given the strong relationship between Fox and Trump, it made sense for Stephen Colbert to invite the network’s top dog on to the show.

Their conversation centered around why Donald Trump was so popular compared to traditional politicians. Here, Colbert argues that the primary process was rigged in the sense that the media gave Trump constant attention. Little did Colbert know that Donald Trump’s media domination was just getting started.

O’Reilly noted that at this point four years ago, Trump was down seven points in the polls. He also argued that nobody cared about claims the election was rigged. Four years later, Trump is down in the polls again and once again claiming things are rigged.

Colbert pivoted to the relationship between Donald Trump and Mike Pence, saying that the future vice president looks like “the saddest man in the world.” It was all part of Colbert’s position that Donald Trump’s behavior and rhetoric were indefensible and could no way lead him to the White House.

Stephen Colbert did hold back when attacking the Trump campaign

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has become the place where late-night fans turn to first anytime a major story or scandal involving President Donald Trump breaks. Colbert has been unyielding in his attacks on President Trump and his allies, sometimes crossing the line.

In Oct. 2016, Colbert was swinging big when going after Donald Trump. The Access Hollywood tape would not leave Colbert’s monologues, another indication that the comedian was convinced it would derail the Trump campaign’s chances of victory. The tape, along with other allegations of misbehavior, saw Trump take a nosedive in the polls by the middle of the month.

Trump fought back in typical Trump fashion, calling the accusations lies and tweeting that the election was rigged. He even claimed Hillary Clinton was using performance-enhancing drugs, a strategy he has turned to again in 2020. Colbert seemed to enjoy watching the Republican nominee implode and fall victim to the “conspiracies” that would later become such a big part of his presidency.

Donald Trump’s rant on the conspiracy involving the “Clinton machine,” the media, and international bankers sounded so unhinged and bizarre at the time, Colbert had to really go over the top to spoof it. As a result, we were treated to this NSFW chalkboard image.

If Colbert knew then what he knows now about Trump and conspiracy theories, he likely wouldn’t have gone all out over the “Clinton machine” diatribe. But in 2016, this was all so new and Colbert was giddy to mock Donald Trump over his baseless attack. It comes off as very dismissive and rightfully so considering what the norms were just four years ago.

Has Stephen Colbert learned his lesson from 2016?

There are a number of similarities between 2016 and 2020. Donald Trump is down in the polls, in a disaster of his own making, and claiming the deck is stacked against him. However, now his opponent has four years of evidence to further make the case that America is not better off than it was when President Trump took office.

Revisiting these clips from The Late Show is a good reminder that things aren’t always what they seem. Donald Trump’s election in 2016 seemed unlikely just as his reelection does in 2020.

But Stephen Colbert doesn’t quite have the same confidence that he did in 2016. The pandemic has led the comedian and other late-night hosts to balance comedy with public service announcements and warnings about a second Trump term. These warnings weren’t as present in 2016 when Donald Trump was treated as a joke rather than a threat to democracy.

So while Colbert has by no means back offed President Trump, the Late Show host is remaining cautiously optimistic about the 2020 election. But just like in 2016, each new episode of the show is more and more of a must-see event.

Related Story. Stephen Colbert can't keep up with Trump's COVID cure story. light

What do you remember about Stephen Colbert’s coverage of the 2016 election? What do you think of his approach to the election this time around? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.