On Thursday evening, both CBS and NBC hailed the arrival of comedian Stephen Colbert at CBS but failed to acknowledge his routine of posing as a mock-conservative host at Comedy Central.
Colbert's persona was a conservative TV host who was, in his own words, a "well-intentioned, poorly-informed, high-status idiot." His show was a mockery of a conservative host. Yet CBS and NBC glossed over the "conservative" bit, remaining neutral on the details and referring to his character as simply his "know-it-all alter ego."
"The Colbert Report, as he calls it, has won four Emmys and two Peabody awards by skewering politicians, the media and Hollywood," reported CBS's Ben Tracy, who left out Colbert's liberal routine.
NBC wouldn't identify the bias of his character, either. "Colbert said today he will host as himself, meaning he will drop the character, the persona he uses to host the Colbert Report," reported Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News.
NBC said he was the member of the new "comedy graduating class" while CBS called him one of "a new generation of night time hosts."
Below are transcripts of the segments:
[7:19 p.m. EST]
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We learn today the third and final component of a complete change in late night is now in place. Today, Steven Colbert was named to was named to succeed David Letterman when the veteran steps aside sometime next year. Colbert is part of the comedy graduating class just behind Dave, and along with Jimmy Kimmel on ABC and our own Jimmy Fallon, it will amount to something real close to a generational shift after your late local news.
Colbert said today he will host as himself, meaning he will drop the character, the persona he uses to host the Colbert Report. He is 49 years old. He signed a five-year deal, we're told, and since CBS and Comedy Central have the same parent company, it's not stealing as much as it is a permanent loan.
[6:56 p.m. EST]
SCOTT PELLEY: CBS made quick work of naming a successor to David Letterman. One week after Letterman announced he's retiring next year, the network today named Stephen Colbert, the new host of Late Show. Ben Tracy now on the latest passing of the torch to a new generation of night time hosts.
STEPHEN COLBERT: You are doing such an incredible job.
JIMMY FALLON: Thank you.
BEN TRACY: (voice over) Just last month Stephen Colbert was complementing Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show. Now he's the competition. Colbert will leave his cable show behind and take over David Letterman's chair, one of the most coveted jobs in late night. In a statement Colbert said, "Simply being a guest on David Letterman's show has been a highlight of my career." He added, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth." That's a reference to Letterman's iconic grin.
LESLIE MOONVES, president and CEO, CBS: When you have a guy of Letterman's stature, it's not an easy question.
TRACY: Leslie Moonves is president and CEO of CBS.
(On camera) Why Stephen Colbert?
MOONVES: Every name in town came up. We got a lot of calls from agents and managers but the one that stood out amongst all of them was Stephen Colbert. I think he brings an originality. He brings a great deal of intelligence. He is so versatile.
JON STEWART, host, Comedy Central's Daily Show: We turn now to our senior viral analyst Dr. Stephen Colbert.
TRACY: Colbert was a correspondent for eight years on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He got his own Comedy Central show in 2005. The Colbert Report, as he calls it, has won four Emmys and two Peabody awards by skewering politicians, the media and Hollywood.
COLBERT: Damn straight. This is America, and we don't need to know where a country is to send troops there.
TRACY: The comedian made his name by pretending to be someone else. On 60 Minutes in 2006, Morley Safer asked him about his know-it-all alter ego.
MORLEY SAFER: That character that you play, is he smart or is he proud to be stupid?
COLBERT: I think of him as well-intentioned, poorly-informed, high-status, idiot.
TRACY: Nearly 50, he is now part of a generational sea change in late night.
NARRATOR: Jimmy... Fallon!
TRACY: 39-year-old Fallon took the reins of NBC's Tonight Show in February, and 46-year-old Jimmy Kimmel has a late-night show on ABC. CBS says Colbert will take over the Late Show some time in 2015. Ben Tracy, CBS News, Los Angeles.
(End Video Clip)