The comments arrived more than a week after Colbert’s now-infamous rant against Trump for disrespecting a CBS colleague, which drew backlash from the far-right and the LGBTQ community. Colbert responded to the backlash and refused to back down, although he admitted that he would’ve used slightly less crude language next time. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai acknowledged that it would look into Colbert’s comments, drawing fears that he was being “investigated” by the FCC—although the FCC later denied that it was investigating Colbert.
But Trump clearly took umbrage with Colbert’s comments. Many parts of his Time interview went viral, including a section where Trump ripped Colbert for being talentless and said that the only reason Colbert wasn’t taken off the air was because Colbert started to attack Trump.
“You see a no-talent guy like Colbert. There’s nothing funny about what he says. And what he says is filthy. And you have kids watching. And it only builds up my base. It only helps me, people like him. The guy was dying. By the way they were going to take him off television, then he started attacking me and he started doing better. But his show was dying. I’ve done his show. … But when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high—highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.”
After reading Trump’s quote on Thursday night’s show, Colbert was thrilled about the string of insults.
“Mr. Trump, there’s a lot you don’t understand,” Colbert started. “But I never thought one of those things would be show business. Don’t you know I’ve been trying for a year to get you to say my name? And you were very restrained—admirably restrained—but now you did it. I won.”
But Colbert wasn’t done yet. He took time to fact-check Trump’s claim that his episode was Colbert’s highest-rated episode—his first episode with Jeb Bush rated higher—and pointed out the reason people were watching was because they really didn’t like Trump. And after all, ratings are important: with such low approval ratings, Colbert noted it might be a matter of time before Trump switches time slots with Mike Pence.