Writers Guild ‘Appalled’ at FCC Investigation of Stephen Colbert: ‘Willful Disregard of First Amendment’

“What is obscene is not what Colbert said but any attempt by the government to stifle dissent and creativity,” Michael Winship and Howard Rodman write

Last Updated: May 8, 2017 @ 8:36 AM

The Writers Guild is furious over the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to investigate Stephen Colbert‘s recent “cock holster” monologue joke directed towards Donald Trump.

WGA East president Michael Winship and West president Howard Rodman sent the following statement out to media on Monday:

As presidents of the Writers Guilds of America, East and West, we were appalled to read recent remarks by Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai. He said the FCC would investigate a joke about Donald Trump by Writers Guild member Stephen Colbert, “apply the law” and “take appropriate action” if the joke were found to be “obscene.

Pai’s remarks are just the latest in a series of statements by the current administration indicating a willful disregard of the First Amendment. Colbert was poking fun at authority, a time-honored American tradition and an essential principle of democracy. What is obscene is not what Colbert said but any attempt by the government to stifle dissent and creativity. Our unions vehemently support Colbert and his writers and will fight for their or anyone’s right to publicly express his or her opinion of our elected officials.

Last Monday, Colbert peppered Trump with a bunch of insults, finishing the rapid-fire barrage with this: “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.”

Some social media users and reporters lashed out at the punchline term, accusing Colbert of homophobia. On Wednesday, the “Late Show” host addressed those criticizing his choice of words.

That full transcript — which was just shy of an actual apology — can be found at the bottom of this post.

Pai had initially pretty much shrugged off the vulgar joke, reminding people that America is “a free country.”

“The FCC — outside of our decency rules — we don’t get into the business of regulating content,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “What I can say is that I realize this is a politically polarized time and I would hope that everyone can participate in the public discourse in a way that’s civil and operates in good faith.”

“That’s one of the things we have to respect going forward, what the courts have said about our legal power in this area,” he said. “By and large, unless it’s indecent, profane obscene under our rules or as interpreted by the Supreme court, the FCC’s authority here is pretty limited.”

But now, Pai says he’s reviewing the facts and may take action.

“We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” he told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Thursday.

“Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,” he added. “A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.”

Here’s Colbert’s mea culpa of sorts:

Welcome to “The Late Show.” I’m your host, Stephen Colbert.

 Still? I am still the host?

 I’m still the host!!

 Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. So at the end of that monologue I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don’t regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight.

 So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be. I’m not going to repeat the phrase, but I just want to say for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person, in their own way, is to me, an American hero. I think we can all agree on that. I hope even the president and I can agree on that. Nothing else. But, that.

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