Stephen Colbert once again roasted House Republicans on Wednesday’s “The Late Show” for their ongoing inability to elect a Speaker of the House now for two whole days. But the host went a bit deeper and more pointed than usual during his ribbing, taking an amusing couple of seconds to imagine what it might be like for Republican hero Ronald Reagan in Hell.
On Wednesday House Republicans failed, for the second day in a row, to elect a Speaker of the House. Leading Candidate Kevin McCarthy is bitterly opposed by the extremist “Freedom Caucus” of Trump supporters, who have been lockstep against him. And so in vote after vote he hasn’t just failed to amass the required 218 votes, he’s actually managed to lose support.
So it is that the House adjourned Wednesday night without a leader; they’ll try again later Thursday. Meanwhile, just know that McCarthy, who has already moved into the speaker’s office despite not actually having the job, has been defeated in six separate votes.
Now back to Colbert, who during his monologue took viewers through the whole crazy series of events, taking care to mock McCarthy over and over. Among the highlights, he poked fun at the tepid support McCarthy got from ex-president Donald Trump, joking it was as definitive as a mug that said “World’s Maybe Dad.”
Colbert also noted that Florida Republican Matt Gaetz — who was suspected by law enforcement of paying minors for sex — demanded to know, in a statement on social media, if it is even legal for McCarthy to occupy the Speaker’s office, considering he hasn’t been elected to the job.
“I can’t believe I’m actually gonna say this, but … Matt Gaetz is right,” Colbert joked. “Well, I mean, that’s weird, but you know what they say: Even a broken clock would be a much better congressman than Matt Gaetz.”
Colbert also laughed about how Fox News has largely turned on the opponents of McCarthy for various reasons, and that’s how he got to his joke about Ronald Reagan. Colbert showed a clip in which Sean Hannity asked, “What would Ronald Reagan do?”
“I don’t know, Sean. Something like, ‘Ah! Where am I?’” Colbert said, affecting a Reagan impersonation while lurching over in mock surprise. “Everything was so dark for so long, and then there were these demons dancing around me, chanting, ‘You should have addressed the AIDS crisis when you had the chance!’ Then I woke up all of a sudden. Mommy!”
For those who might not get the joke, what Colbert was referring to is the Ronald Reagan’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which critics have long said was begrudging at best. The AIDS epidemic was identified in 1981 shortly after Reagan became president, and critics say for the majority of his 1981-89 presidency, Reagan ignored the problem. Reagan has also been credibly accused of deliberately underfunding efforts to combat and understand AIDS.
However, it should be noted, by the end of his presidency, Reagan had increased funding for AIDS research and prevention considerably and appointed people who took it seriously, including his Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who spearheaded a more frank, realistic approach to sex education, among other things.
Still, critics contend to this day that had Reagan taken the matter seriously sooner, thousands of deaths could have been prevented. The debate, as they say, rages on.
You can watch Colbert’s whole “Late Show” monologue in the video above.