11:10am PT by Michael O'Connell
Stephen Colbert Stays the Course With Debate Gag After Donald Trump Bails (Video)
Comedy Central's evening anchors took the news of Donald Trump's departure from moderating Newsmax's Dec. 27 G.O.P. debate quite hard on Tuesday night -- but it hasn't stopped Stephen Colbert from moving forward with his own tongue-in-cheek debate.
"At first, I assumed the date conflicted with Trump's annual full-body gold-leafing," the Colbert Report host said, "but it turns out he has canceled for a more important reason."
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Colbert then cut to a clip of Trump explaining on Fox News that he "won't rule out an independent run."
"I would be lying if I didn't say I saw this coming," said Colbert, turning the subject back to himself. "To honor the memory of Trump mattering, it is more important than ever that tonight I re-announce 'Stephen Colbert's South Carolina Serious, Classy Republican Debate.'"
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The host remains committed to the bit, saying that it will be held in mid to late January, at a zoo, with a likely change in network.
"It was going to be on Animal Planet," he said. "Now I am getting some hot heat from National Geographic... Nat Geo... Natty G."
Watch the full clip below: