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Stephen Colbert swallows hard and addresses boss Les Moonves' #MeToo mess

Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Kicking off his Monday Late Show monologue, Stephen Colbert at first gingerly waded into the recent New Yorker article alleging that CBS head and Colbert’s boss Les Moonves is yet another powerful entertainment figure with a long history of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. Role-playing his reaction when hearing about the article, Colbert feigned hope that Moonves was simply “a shout or a murmur” before the revelation that the article was written by infamous archaeologist of influential sleazebags Ronan Farrow saw him doing a mighty spit-take. (And replacing his water with straight scotch.)

After poking at the issue a few times (look for CBS’ new show CSI: CEO, starring Nicholas Cage, Rashida Jones, and Kevin James this fall), Colbert moved onto the rest of the world in human awfulness (Hi, Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle), promising, “I’ll have some more to say about this over there at the desk later—assuming we make it past the commercial break.” Well, following the first commercial The Late Show was back, and Colbert did have some stuff to say.

Colbert has long been a champion of the women accusing powerful men in his industry of abusing that power (and of Farrow’s investigations thereof), and kicked off his four-minute address by restating that support. Speaking of the last year’s worth of women coming forward, Colbert called the fact that the #MeToo movement has empowered women to do so “an objectively good thing,” continuing, “It sounds strange to have to say this. Powerful men taking sexual advantage of relatively powerless employees is wrong.” Calling himself “naive, on a certain level” for being personally shocked at the unending roster of outed entertainment industry predators, Colbert yet was clearly struggling with his response to Moonves’ inclusion on that list.


Citing his gratitude to the CBS chief’s loyalty to The Late Show and Colbert personally, the host told his audience, “Make no mistake—Les Moonves is my guy.” It’s the point at which so many otherwise vocal supposed #MeToo allies have stumbled, and while Colbert did admit that he doesn’t know what will come of CBS’ current investigation of Moonves, he also refused to compromise what has been his steadfast belief in the women coming out with wrenching tales of workplace abuse. Calling the “roar” of long-suppressed accusations “a natural backlash to all that silence,” Colbert was unflinching in saying that your moral indignation cannot just be directed at “politicians you disagree with.” “Everybody believes in accountability until it’s their guy,” Colbert stated, continuing, “Accountability is meaningless unless it’s for everybody—whether it’s the leader of a network, or the leader of the free world.”

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.