Show had hoped to swear in new citizens on-air; White House overruled Homeland Security to reject the idea
Proving that Stephen Colbert makes people at the highest levels of government a little nervous, the White House has nixed a plan by "The Colbert Report" to feature an on-air naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens, TheWrap has learned exclusively.
The show had hoped to feature the ceremony next Tuesday to coincide with a guest appearance by Alexandra Pelosi, whose new documentary, "Citizen U.S.A.: A 50 State Road Trip," debuts on HBO on July 4.
The documentary chronicles new citizens all over the country taking their oaths of allegiance to the United States. The federal government conducts the ceremonies, and the show had hoped to hold one on the air, in keeping with Colbert's fervent patriotism.
Department of Homeland Security officials approved of the idea, but the White House overruled them out of fears that the show might not treat the ceremony with the seriousness it deserves, three people close to the discussions told TheWrap.
Reached for comment, Pelosi said: "The government just doesn't get it. 'The Colbert Report' is what America watches. This is Colbert Nation."
In a statement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of Homeland Security, suggested the decision was because of the logistics of fitting the ceremony into the half-hour talk show.
"The government made a unified decision to refrain from formatting a naturalization ceremony for a television show," press secretary Chris Bentley said. "We did so to ensure that the qualities of the ceremony are not impaired in any way. Our naturalization ceremonies remain open to the public."
But logistics were not the deciding factor, the three people close to the discussions said. In fact, the White House believed that given the satirical nature of "The Colbert Report," it was not worth the risk that the show might not take seriously one of the most important moments in the new citizens' lives.
The White House need not have worried if all naturalization ceremonies are like the ones captured by Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The ceremonies, which feature people who came to America from more than 150 countries, are so moving as to be utterly satire-proof.
There's also no indication that Colbert had any intention of mocking them: Making fun of hard-working people pursuing the American dream simply isn't very funny.