Stephen Colbert got to his first guest earlier than usual Monday night, leaving ample time for an in-depth discussion of America’s intertwined terrorism and gun problem with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
After opening his show with an all-too-familiar seriously-stated commentary about how a late-night comedian is expected to react to the deadliest mass shooting in American history, in which he extolled the virtues of love over hate, Colbert said he hoped his guest might have some answers about how to confront terrorism aimed at the LGBT community.
Echoing Donald Trump, the conservative Fox News star began by saying that the events in Orlando should not be considered a “tragedy,” but rather a battle in the “war” that the United States is engaged with against “Islamic jihadists.”
“Well, you have framed the problem in that way,” Colbert replied, “But it can be looked at in a different way. You can also say the problem is easy access to high capacity, rapid-firing weaponry.” This line drew loud cheers from the crowd, which was clearly on the Late Show host’s side, but O’Reilly was undeterred, refusing to acknowledge that the access to guns could be considered an important factor in a mass shooting like this one.
In contrast, O’Reilly received only groans when he said that the solution to terror attacks like the one in Orlando “is not some kind of federal gun control at a level of taking guns away.” Citing Chicago’s tough gun laws and high murder rate, he added, “you cannot patrol 24-7 criminals and terrorists who have access to guns.” But as Colbert pointed out, because federal laws are not strong enough, most of Chicago’s guns come from neighboring states like Indiana.
Over the course of the extended segment, O’Reilly conceded that he is in favor of legislation that would limit access to military-style weapons like the AR-15, adding that the Second Amendment “doesn't give anybody the right to commit a crime with a gun.”
After a break, Colbert confronted O’Reilly over his call for an “all-out war” against Islamic extremism, which the Fox host believes could have allowed the FBI to detain the Orlando shooter even though he had not committed a crime prior to the attack. “If you’re at war,” O’Reilly said, “you can detain people.” As he pointed out, Franklin D. Roosevelt “did it with the Japanese” during World War II. “I think he made a mistake, but he did it.”
“How does that stop a lone gunman here in the United States?” Colbert asked. O’Reilly replied, “I told you you can’t stop that,” and Colbert shot back, “Why would we then declare war based on this?” When Colbert asked when this hypothetical war would be over, his guest answered, “The war is over when the level of terrorism goes down, the refugees can return home, and you have a basic handle on the situation. Look, we know what the danger is, we know what the cost is, and we know it’s been going on far too long. So now it’s time for America to step up its power and take care of these S.O.B.’s.”
Finally, Colbert got O’Reilly to agree that Trump’s response thus far has been a bit “self-congratulatory,” patting himself on the back for predicting more jihadist attacks on U.S. soil. “That’s not political behavior, that’s grandstanding,” Colbert said, to which O’Reilly concurred that Trump is using the attack to “bolster his popularity.”
As for how attacks like this one will affect the presidential race, O’Reilly said Trump “has the advantage on this one” and will not hesitate to exploit that advantage for all it’s worth.