The Late Show: Stephen Colbert says staff arrests at Capitol were ‘first degree puppetry’ not ‘insurrection’

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Stephen Colbert used his opening monologue on The Late Show to talk about his staff being arrested at the US Capitol last week.

Seven people on the show’s production team including Robert Smigel, the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, were detained in the Longworth House Office Building by US Capitol Police.

The team had been there interviewing politicians after the third public hearing by the House panel investigating the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot, when Donald Trump supporters stormed the meeting place of US Congress.

Colbert said on Monday (20 June): “Thursday evening, after they’d finished their interviews, [my staff] were doing some last-minute puppetry and jokey make-em-ups in a hallway, when Triumph and my folks were approached and detained by Capitol Police, which actually is not surprising. The Capitol Police are much more cautious than they were 18 months ago and for a very good reason. If you don’t know what that reason is I know what news network you watch.”

The hearing was notably not broadcast at first by Fox News.

“The Capitol police were just doing their job, my staff was just doing their job, everyone was very professional, everyone was very calm. My staffers were detained, processed and released. A very unpleasant experience for my staff,” Colbert added.

The host then took issue with some outlets, including Fox News, reporting that “my puppet squad had committed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building”.

Stephen Colbert (left) and Robert Smigel who performs as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (CBS/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Stephen Colbert (left) and Robert Smigel who performs as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (CBS/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Fox host Tucker Carlson said on his show: “It’s exactly like what happened on January 6, so we’ll take a close look at what the punishments are.”

Colbert responded on The Late Show: “First of all: what? Second of all: huh? Third of all, they weren’t in the Capitol building. Fourth of all and I’m shocked I have to explain the diference, but an insurrection involves interrupting the lawful action of Congress and howling for the blood of elected leaders, all to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. This was first-degree puppetry.”

In a statement released Friday (17 June), Capitol police said: “Responding officers observed seven individuals, unescorted and without Congressional ID, in a sixth-floor hallway.

“The building was closed to visitors, and these individuals were determined to be a part of a group that had been directed by the USCP to leave the building earlier in the day.”

CBS, in its own statement, said the interviews “were authorised and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed.

“After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police.”

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