Updated with video: “I want to thank you, not only for being here, but for running for president, ” Stephen Colbert told Donald Trump on The Late Show tonight. “I’m not going to say this stuff writes itself, but you certainly do deliver it on time every day,” added Colbert, who has been feasting on Trump’s candidacy since debuting as host of CBS’s late night show early this month.
Colbert didn’t so much interview Trump as perform WWE Theatre with the reality TV star turned GOP front-runner. You know, pretends he’s thwapping the guy, but it’s all for fun and ratings. Not coincidentally, about a week earlier, Trump visited NBC’s late-night rival, Tonight Show and pounded Colbert in the ratings that night.
“Donald Trump is here…Finally a place on TV to hear about Donald Trump,” Colbert said by way of opening the highly anticipated showdown. “He is the GOP front-runner. Who knows, one day I might be able to tell my kids I interviewed the last President of the United States.”
The night’s music guest, Raury, has declared himself The Future of Hip Hop, Colbert said, “which would sound egotistical on any show that did not have Donald Trump on tonight.”
Once out on stage, Trump was challenged to play a game in which he tried to determine which quote he had said, and which had been said by Colbert’s Comedy Central show faux-bloviator character. Trump was game, and got them right. The last statement – “The real strong have no need to prove it to the phonies” – stumped him; he knew it wasn’t his, but he didn’t think it sounded Faux-Colbert-ish either. Trump was right again: The line was Charles Manson’s.
“I want to apologize to you, because I’ve said a few things about you, over the years, that, in polite company, perhaps are unforgivable,” Colbert said at another point in the interview.
“And, some nice things,” Trump insisted, adding, “apology accepted.”
You know where this is going, as did Trump.
“Is there anybody you would like to apologize to right now?” Colbert asked.
The interview threatened to turn into a love fest when Colbert asked Trump if he was shocked at the enormous response he’s been getting around the country since announcing his candidacy, “because you shocked Republicans.” Colbert cited a recent Zogby poll showing Trump at 33%, adding “I’m not surprised at all.” Trump smiled at the audience: “I’m liking him a lot!”
“I’m liking you too,” Colbert responded, saying the GOP position has been that “money is speech and you’re a $10 billion mouth.”
“You’re their worst nightmare. They really want to stop you,” the late-night host continued.
The GOP “establishment… is not that thrilled,” Trump simpered, reminding us, again, he’s spending his own money.
Colbert also pretended he thought he could get Trump to answer a “big fat meatball” of a question: “Barack Obama, born in the United States?” Trump’s been taking a lot of heat in the media for failing to shut down someone at one of his recent rallies who, during a Q&A period, said the country had a Muslim “problem” that included President Obama, who he also said was not a U.S. citizen.
“I don’t talk about that any more,” Trump responded, of course.
As part of the show’s fun and games, Colbert also had invited Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz as his guest; Moniz is credited with being the architect of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump, like other GOP candidates, has criticized the deal. But, unlike other GOP hopefuls, Trump has not vowed to rip up the deal if elected. Instead he has said he’s so good at taking “bad contracts…where people really screwed up” and fixing the situation. “I would police that contract so tough that they don’t have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract,” he has vowed.
To that point, Colbert had Trump sign a copy of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” for Moniz, suggesting Trump sign it: “Better luck next time.”
“I was just going to say that, but I don’t want to be a wiseguy. I want to be a nice guy,” Trump said, winning that round too.
One night earlier, Colbert had demonstrated how to do a tough interview with a presidential candidate, giving no quarter to Sen. Ted Cruz.