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On CBS’ Late Show Monday, Stephen Colbert addressed the arrests of members of his production team at a U.S. Capitol office building last week. Among those arrested was Robert Smigel, the longtime Saturday Night Live and Late Night writer who has appeared on Colbert’s show in character as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on a handful of occasions.
Colbert began his monologue by explaining what happened at the Capitol, outlining what his crew were up to, where they were and who they spoke to, emphasizing they had permission to be there. “After [the crew] finished their interviews, they were doing some last-minute puppetry and jokey make-em-ups in a hallway, when Triumph and my folks were approached and detained by the Capitol police — which actually isn’t that surprising,” Colbert continued, adding that the Capitol police were much more circumspect after the Jan. 6 insurrection last year that led to five people dying.
“The Capitol police are much more cautious than they were, say, 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,” Colbert said.
He added, “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 then referenced Fox News’ coverage of the incident, with the cable news network suggesting the Late Show crew had caused an “insurrection” of their own. “First of all: what? Second of all: huh? Third of all, they weren’t in the Capitol building!”
Noting that he was “shocked” he had to offer up this explanation, Colbert said, “An insurrection involves disrupting the lawful actions of Congress and howling for the blood of elected leaders, all to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. This was first-degree puppetry. This was hijinks with intent to goof. Misappropriation of an old Conan bit.”
He continued, “Drawing any equivalence between rioters storming our Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral ballots and a cigar-chomping toy dog is a shameful and grotesque insult to the memory of everyone who died.”
Colbert’s comments came just a few days after seven members of his team, including Smigel, were arrested at the Longworth House Office Building after it had closed for the evening. The team had been recording interviews with members of Congress earlier in the day.
“Their interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed,” a CBS spokesperson said. “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.”
However, the U.S. Capitol Police charged them with unlawful entry, citing their presence in the halls without an escort or official ID. A statement from the USCP added that they may press further charges.
“This is an active criminal investigation, and may result in additional criminal charges after consultation with the U.S. Attorney,” the statement said.
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