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.
“Bill and I did not see eye to eye on… anything,” Colbert said during his Late Show monologue Wednesday night after announcing the news to his audience.
“I’ve done my fair share of jokes about him,” he continued, noting that he also once stole O’Reilly’s microwave, which he ultimately auctioned off to benefit wounded soldiers. But the host insisted, “I take no pleasure in his downfall.”
“I’m not going to sit here and publicly gloat,” he continued. Instead, he asked the camera to pan away from him 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 breakroom.”
As Colbert mentioned, on Monday a black female Fox News employee came forward and said O’Reilly used to call her “Hot Chocolate” to her face. “I know what you’re thinking: That’s really sexist,” he said. “Yeah, but remember, it’s also pretty racist.”
“This is huge,” he said of the news. “It’s like looking out at your front yard and the big oak tree is just gone. And sure, the oak tree said some disturbing things about young black men, what with their rap music and their neck tattoos, but damnit, the tree had been there forever. And your grandpa liked to just sit there and stare at it.”
About Fox News’s official statement on O’Reilly’s dismissal, Colbert joked, “I think they just took the Roger Ailes statement and changed the nouns.” Instead of condemning the host for his actions, that statement proclaimed, “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 said to groans from his audience. “By moral standards, he was a self-righteous landfill of angry garbage.”
But at the same time, Colbert admitted that he “owes a lot” to O’Reilly, considering the fact that he spent nine years playing a character “based largely” on the Fox News host, “and then 12 months in therapy to de-bloviate myself.”
With that in mind, he decided to issue a statement from Bill O’Reilly’s “biggest fan,” conservative pundit Stephen Colbert. “Hello, Nation, and shame on you,” the other “Colbert” said via satellite from his cabin in the woods. “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.”
“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.”
He invited O’Reilly to come live in his mountain cabin, along with another retired host, Jon Stewart. “Stay strong, Papa Bear!” he concluded, choking back tears.