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last night on late night
March 21, 2019

"Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was more recognizable to a focus group of Wisconsin swing voters than every Democratic presidential prospect except Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren," Alexi McCammond reports at Axios, citing a focus group last week of 12 voters. The freshman Democrat from New York "has only been in Congress for a few months, yet she's breaking through even in rural areas of the Midwest. It's not a great start for the 2020 Democrats who aren't recognizable at all in Wisconsin, a key battleground state, despite all the national attention they're getting."

But it makes some sense. Ocasio-Cortez has excited young progressives and struck fascinated terror in Fox News pundits and conservative activists. "So, with AOC — as I call her, to save time — raising so many questions, I thought it was time to let members of my staff ask her questions of their own," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show.

In response to Late Show staff questions, Ocasio-Cortez explained how Medicare-or-all would work, named the one thing she'd change about Washington ("I think I'd make everyone relax a little bit more"), threw shade at questioner Molly Ringwald, and fielded a question about whether she has anything in common with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), blocker of all legislation Ocasio-Cortez holds dear. "Yeah," she responded, "we both have an awkward relationship with Mitch McConnell." Ouch. Peter Weber

March 19, 2019

The White House is pushing back on a new book, Kushner Inc., detailing Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner's role in President Trump's administration. Its author, Vicky Ward, told The Late Show's Stephen Colbert on Monday that "if Sarah Huckabee Sanders wants to get into a credibility ratings battle with me, I'll take her on."

Trump is "very ambivalent" about having his daughter and son-in-law working in his White House, Ward told Colbert, and "he hates it when they get negative press." If that's true, Colbert said, "why do you think the president doesn't get them out of there?" Ward said then-Chief of Staff John Kelly tried to force them to resign, on Trump's orders, and "they came to resign, and Trump couldn't do it. ... He cannot send his daughter home."

Some of Trump's supporters argue "his daughter and her husband may be his undoing, that they are far more dangerous to him than Robert Mueller," Ward said. For example, she said, Kushner's role in firing James Comey as FBI director was much greater, more public, and more apparently self-serving than is widely known. "Is there anybody left to check the influence of Jared and Ivanka?" Colbert asked. Ward said yes, first lady Melania Trump, "the only person in my book who has ever successfully stood up to Ivanka Trump and won."

Ward revisited the Melania-Ivanka standoff in an ABC News The Investigation podcast posted Tuesday, and she suggested a motivation for Jared and Ivanka's misbehavior: "Most people go into government for public service. They do seem to have gone in for self-service." Ward said she doesn't know if "these two will be held accountable," but it could happen via "a combination of Congress and prosecutors or, you know, their path, their trajectory will continue as it has, which seemingly is remarkably unstoppable." Listen below. Peter Weber

March 14, 2019

The newest splashy book taking an inside look at President Trump's White House focuses on his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both top White House advisers. "It's called Kushner Inc. — Inc., of course, standing for incompetent," Stephen Colbert quipped on Wednesday's Late Show. And if you're wondering what Ivanka and Jared do with their days, well, a lot of them are spent on the road, and they reportedly like to travel in taxpayer-funded style.

According to the book, "Jared and Ivanka wanted to use all the privileges of the White House, but ran up against restrictions on using Air Force planes," Colbert said. Author Vicky Ward writes that Ivanka "often requested to travel on Air Force planes when it was not appropriate. When Rex W. Tillerson, the former secretary of state, would deny the requests, the couple would invite along a Cabinet secretary, often Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to get access to a plane." Colbert grimaced. "Oh, I feel for Mnuchin here. He's like that weird kid you befriend just because he has a pool." He acted that out.

Ward also reported that Trump ordered Chief of Staff John Kelly to fire Jared and Ivanka and "get them back to New York" — "To which everyone in New York said, 'Quick, turn off the lights and pretend we're not home!'" Colbert joked — and that Ivanka insisted to economic adviser Gary Cohn after her father refused to condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville that "my dad's not a racist; he didn't mean any of it," and "that's not what he said." That sounded familiar to Colbert: "Wow, she's flat-out denying her father said the thing her father said on tape. I guess the Tim Apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Watch below. Peter Weber

March 13, 2019

"There is a huge scandal rocking the news cycle today, and it has to do with higher education — so Donald Trump is not involved," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Sort of refreshing, in a horrible sort of way. You know how conspiracy theorists say everything is rigged for the wealthy and famous? Well, as a wealthy, famous person, let me just respond by saying, 'You're absolutely right.'"

The scandal involves dozens of parents who allegedly paid a fake charity to cheat their children into elite universities. "The FBI was tipped off by the essay question on this year's common application," Colbert said: "Reflect on an accomplishment that sparked personal growth and/or list your parents' credit card number. What prompted your choice? What is the 3-digit security code?"

The most famous parents swept up in the scandal are Felicity Huffman, of Desperate Housewives fame, and Lori Loughlin, Full House's Aunt Becky, Colbert said. "Look, I know it's shocking, but this is nothing new. I mean, back in the '90s, Loughlin was part of a notorious scheme where they made a pair of twins pretend to be one person." Watch below. Peter Weber

March 13, 2019

We just got "the biggest story to rock American colleges since the invention of the red Solo cup," Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. "This is insane: The FBI has just busted dozens of rich parents for bribing colleges to accept their kids. And not just any rich people — some celebrities. I'm so disappointed in you, Aunt Becky. I mean, I expected this from a Desperate Housewife, but you?"

Noah ran through some of the "mind-blowing" details that have emerged so far. "This story is so infuriating, because rich kids should have to get into college the old-fashioned way," he said: "By their parents donating a library. So this is a huge story right now, and not just because of the possible crimes committed but also because of everything it says about how privileged people get ahead in a country that's supposed to be about merit and hard work."

Noah regretfully moved on to "another spoiled brat who's in a place he's not supposed to be" — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's argument against impeaching him, President Trump, because it would be divisive and "he's just not worth it." Wow, Noah said. "Either Nancy Pelosi has gone soft or this is brilliant reverse psychology. Because you know Trump's going to hear that and be like: 'How dare you? I'm totally worth impeaching!' And she'd be like, 'No, you're not, Donald.' 'Oh, yeah? Check out my tax returns, and here's my pee-pee tape. Lock me up! Lock me up!'"

Noah ended with the scuffle between the NBA's Russell Westbrook and a Utah Jazz fan, and Sen. Mitt Romney's odd birthday cake technique. "I'm sorry, blowing out candles one-by-one, I think we can all agree, is extremely weird," he said. "And I'm not going to lie: He did it with such rich-white-man confidence that I started wondering if I'd been doing it wrong my entire life." Watch below. Peter Weber

March 7, 2019

"Everybody out there is talking about the big TV broadcast about that sexual predator in the entertainment industry, and unfortunately I have to narrow that down," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. He was talking about R. Kelly. "If you've been living under some beautiful, comforting, noise-canceling rock," he said, "R. Kelly's accused of multiple counts of physical and sexual abuse, including holding victims — some underage — against their will. And this [interview] was a chance for Kelly to reassure the world that he is normal. But instead he went with ... not that."

"Wow, he shouted and he cried, but it was completely unconvincing," Colbert said. "For Pete's sake, he forgot to say he liked beer." CBS's Gayle King sat through Kelly's ravings with preternatural calm. "She knows that when you're interviewing R. Kelly, you gotta go by the T-Rex rules," he said: "It can only see motion."

"Is there anyone cooler than Gayle King?" Jimmy Kimmel marveled on Kimmel Live. "She's just like, 'Robert?' Whatever Zen meditation class she's taking, sign me up." As for Kelly, on the other hand, "I believe this was the first time a defendant ever pleaded insanity during an interview," Kimmel said. "He said he never held anyone against their will because only a dummy would do something like that," and to judge whether Kelly is "stupid," Kimmel reviewed some of his work.

"The interview revealed a number of disturbing things about R. Kelly, one of them being he lives in Trump Tower in Chicago, and he keeps a Christmas tree up all year round," Kimmel said. "This was quite a performance," he added, playing one part in particular he thought "could get R. nominated for an Academy Award." Watch below. Peter Weber

February 22, 2019

Former President Barack Obama was at the Duke-North Carolina game Wednesday night when Duke star Zion Williamson's shoe split, leaving him with a knee injury, and Stephen Colbert showed Obama mouthing "His shoe broke" at the game on Thursday's Late Show. "It's so refreshing to see a president who can actually see a problem and identify it — you know Trump would have said 'Fake shoes,'" he said. "Of course, Obama's not everybody's cup of tea. Some people prefer Trump. For instance a lot of local news stations are owned by a company called the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has been accused of being pro-Trump."

On Monday, Sinclair made 50 stations broadcast a "must-run video" from chief political analysts and former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn, and one particularly sycophantic suggestion caught Colbert's attention. "Trump on Rushmore might not be that far-fetched because — and I swear this is real — there's a section of the mountain that already kind of looks like him," he said, showing the image. "But if pro-Trump reporting and his aging skinhead fanboys calm, then we've prepared an ever more pro-Trump message from our in-house broadcast team Real News Tonight."

Also on Thursday, Trump friend and longtime adviser Roger Stone was hauled into court over an Instagram post that seemed to threaten Judge Amy Berman Jackson with crosshairs. In one of his funnier excuses, Stone said he thought the crosshairs was a Celtic symbol. "Oh yes," Colbert deadpanned. "It goes back to Roman times when the Celts in Northern Europe used to threaten judges on Instagram."

The judge told Stone she had "serious doubts" he's learned "any lesson at all" and appears "to need clear boundaries" — "Yes, possibly a series of vertical steel boundaries," Colbert suggested — and she gave Stone a full gag order. "So if you want to communicate with Roger Stone," Colbert said, "do it the old-fashioned way and contact him through his Russian hackers." Peter Weber

February 22, 2019

"It's a strange and disturbing news day in America — The New York Times summed it up with their new slogan, 'All the News That's Ick to Print,'" Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "And the icky part, I gotta say, starts with Empire actor Jussie Smollett," arrested Thursday for allegedly faking his own hate crime. "Now, this story involves race, sexuality, politics, and violence, so I need to tread very lightly here and simply say: What a dick," Colbert said. "Smollett cast himself as a fake national symbol for our real racial and political divide." He outlined the case.

"Look, I'm no expert, but if you're going to fake a white supremacist hate crime, hire two white guys," Colbert suggested, not two black brothers. "Smollett also — and this is a conspiracy no-no, paid the brothers by check. Come on. It did not help that he wrote in the memo line: 'For faking hate crime against me, Jussie Smollett, the guy from Empire.'" This whole case "is a horrible affront to actual victims of hate crimes," he added. President Trump, of course, attacked Smollett on Twitter.

"But Smollett isn't the only icky news today — last night we found out the FBI has arrested a Coast Guard officer who was planning a rampage against Democrats and journalists," Colbert said. "The officer in question, Christopher P. Hasson, once wrote a letter, 'I am a long time White Nationalist, having been a skinhead 30-plus years.' Thirty years? That is a long time. He is close to skinhead retirement. Soon he can cash in his 401(KKK)."

"So this man is a homicidal, racist monster, serving in our military, but don't worry, the commander in chief slapped him down with a savage tweet of ... nothing," Colbert said. "Silence. Hasn't commented. It makes sense: Hasson only wants to kill everyone on earth, it's not like he's hosting SNL." Watch below. Peter Weber

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