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Stephen Colbert responds to online backlash after anti-Trump monologue

Stephen Colbert went after the president on Monday,

Stephen Colbert went after the president on Monday, May 1, 2017's "Late Show."  After a social media backlash, the TV host addressed his critics on the Wednesday, May 3, 2017, show. Colbert said he had no regrets on flinging insults aimed at Donald Trump, saying the president "can take care of himself." Photo Credit: AP / Richard Boeth

“Late Show” host Stephen Colbert has responded to the ferocious social media backlash over the monologue in Monday’s edition.

Bottom line: He makes an apology, but not to President Trump.

Colbert addressed the controversy at the top of Wednesday’s edition, saying, “Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine,” referring to John Dickerson, host of “Face the Nation.” (Trump had earlier abruptly cut short an interview with Dickerson, then referred to his show as “Deface the Nation.”)

“So at the end of that monologue, I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don’t regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight.”

Then, referring to a particularly incendiary line in the monologue — which many critics, including some on a #firecolbert hashtag, said was homophobic — he added, “I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be. I’m not going to repeat the phrase, but I just want to say for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person, in their own way, is to me an American hero. I think we can all agree on that.”

The “Late Show” was hit by a trending #FireColbert Twitter hashtag late Tuesday, hours after the Monday monologue unloaded a series of comic insults — some vulgar — on President Donald J. Trump.

The unusual social media backlash even generated another hashtag — #Firecobert — which was also trending for a time, and generated hundreds of comments as well. Whether intentional or not, the misspelling of his name may have been due to the way it’s pronounced.

Monday’s monologue began as so many now do, with Trump: “It’s day 102 of the Trump presidency 1,358 days to go. But who’s counting?” Cue to Colbert, and a slowly raising hand. The monologue later segued to outtakes from the interview John Dickerson had held earlier with the president. That supplied more material, followed by more punchlines.

Then Colbert played an outtake of Trump abruptly cutting short the Dickerson interview. “Walking out in the middle of a sentence wasn’t even the president’s biggest insult to Dickerson,” said Colbert who quickly cut to the president calling his show “Deface the Nation.” Colbert said Dickerson “has way too much dignity” to respond to the president’s sleight with insults, “but I sir, am no John Dickerson.”

A fusillade of one-offs then followed (“You attract more skinheads than Rogaine”), along with one insult, referencing Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, that was criticized as being blatantly homophobic.

By 7 p.m. Tuesday, #firecolbert was the second top-trending topic in the United States, and would remain a top trender through Wednesday morning and into the early afternoon.

Many of the tweets reflected outrage, while others called for a viewer or advertiser boycott.

CBS had declined to comment throughout the day — an indication it would be up to Colbert to put out the fire he started.

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