Stephen Colbert opened his show on Wednesday night by addressing Fox News’ firing of Bill O’Reilly, the man who served as the inspiration for the “Stephen Colbert” conservative pundit character who spent almost a decade hosting The Colbert Report.
Over the past several years, O’Reilly has been accused of sexual harassment by various women. A story in the New York Times that Fox and O’Reilly had paid $13 million to settle with several women triggered a massive backlash against Fox News and resulted in a slew of advertisers fleeing his talk-news show, The O’Reilly Factor.
“Bill and I did not see eye to eye on — anything,” Colbert said during his Late Show monologue. “I’ve done my fair share of jokes about him,” the host continued, mentioning that he once stole O’Reilly’s microwave, which he auctioned off to benefit wounded soldiers.
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“I take no pleasure in his downfall,” Colbert insisted.
“I’m not going to sit here and publicly gloat,” he said. Then he asked the camera to pan away so he could celebrate in private. “It’s not that big of a surprise, I guess. We all saw this coming at us, like an old man cornering an intern in the break room.”
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In a statement, 21st Century Fox had this to say about O’Reilly’s ousting:
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”
Colbert made reference to the official statement on O’Reilly’s dismissal. “I think they just took the Roger Ailes statement and changed the nouns,” he joked.
Instead of mentioning the alleged actions of O’Reilly, the statement read, ““By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news.”
“By ratings standards, he is,” Colbert admitted. “By moral standards, he was a self-righteous landfill of angry garbage.”
Colbert admitted that he “owes a lot” to O’Reilly because he spent nine years playing “Stephen Colbert” who was “based largely” on the former Fox News host.
“And then 12 months in therapy to de-bloviate myself. So tonight, we at The Late Show are proud to issue a statement from Bill O’Reilly’s biggest fan: conservative pundit ‘Stephen Colbert,’” he announced.
“Hello, Nation, and shame on you,” the other “Colbert” said. “You failed Bill O’Reilly. You didn’t deserve him. All he ever did was have your back. And if you’re a woman, you know, have a go at the front, too.”
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) April 20, 2017
“And what? Suddenly sexual harassment’s a crime?” he asked. “But that’s the country we live in now. Obama’s Trump’s America. I guess I always knew this day would come. When I first saw Bill on TV, I knew in my heart that no one could possibly sustain such a broad character for that long.”
The other “Colbert” invited O’Reilly to come live in his mountain cabin in the woods, along with Jon Stewart.
“Stay strong, Papa Bear!” he said, before bursting into tears.
With files from Chris Jancelewicz