John Avlon Tells Stephen Colbert About the Daily Beast Story That Really Got Under Trump’s Skin

Hint: It has to do with the time Trump’s ex-wife accused him of a violent rape.

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

After tearing Alabama GOP nominee for U.S. Senate Roy Moore a new one over getting banned from a shopping mall in the 1980s for sexually harassing high-school girls, The Late Show host Stephen Colbert welcomed The Daily Beast’s editor-in-chief and CNN political analyst John Avlon to his couch.

The CBS late-night program regularly cites The Daily Beast’s reporting in its segments, so it made sense to have its leader on to discuss the process.

“What people don’t know is that you and I have known each other for years, because we met through parents,” said Colbert, giving a nod to their Charleston, South Carolina, roots.

Colbert then moved on to The Daily Beast. “It has this odd distinction. I think it was the first organization that was placed on Trump’s blacklist, before he was president of the United States. How did you get this singular honor?” he asked, to cheers from the audience.

“Well, it is a badge of honor,” Avlon replied. “We had a reporter who was doing a great story, called up and asked some questions of [Trump’s] senior counsel, and got a torrent of threats: ‘I’m going to bankrupt you, I’m going to put you out of business.’ And we published the threats. Because that’s how we roll.” (The story referred to, which you can read here, explored the time Donald Trump’s ex-wife Ivana accused him of a violent rape.)

I like that, offered Colbert.

“But I think that speaks a lot about the stakes of journalism in the age of Trump,” Avlon continued. “These folks are fundamentally uncomfortable with holding power to account, but that’s our job. Our job is to call a lie a lie and say a fact is a fact… That is honest to God why I think we’ll look back on this as the best time to be a journalist—not because it was easy, but because it was hard and our mission was clear.”

The two old acquaintances then touched on Avlon’s new book, Washington’s Farewell, about the Founding Father’s farewell address.

“What’s crazy about this farewell address is that he wrote it as a memo to future generations—to us—about the forces he feared could destroy our democratic republic,” said Avlon.  

“And they are: hyperpartisanship, excessive debt, and foreign powers influencing our election,” chimed in Colbert. The implication was crystal clear.

Colbert then asked his guest to compare the two U.S. presidents: Washington and Trump.

“Look at the personal virtues that Washington brought to the office intentionally,” said Avlon. “Honestly, integrity, humility, a lifetime of commitment to public service, a belief in principled compromise and moderation as a source of strength and a governing virtue. These aren’t anywhere on the menu right now, folks, and that’s a problem.”

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“He was such an essentially modest man,” Avlon added. “I think in some ways what Donald Trump is, is a nightmare image of what democracy could have become.”

“I’m on board,” cracked Colbert. “I bought a first-class ticket on the train you’re on right now.”