There was a time when Stephen Colbert was described as a “fake news” anchor, first on The Daily Show and then on The Colbert Report. But in 2016, “fake news” has come to mean something very different.
On Wednesday night’s Late Show, Colbert told his viewers, “I really hope you don’t get your news from me because, news flash: This isn’t news. This is entertainment.” He suggested CBS News’ John Dickerson or The Wall Street Journal as quality news sources, but added, “Don’t go to some anonymous guy on social media, because a lot of the news on social media is a lie.”
From there, the host went on to break down the conspiracy theory known as #Pizzagate, which started online but resulted in some terrifying real world consequences over the weekend when a North Carolina man entered Comet pizzeria in Washington D.C. and opened fire in search of a made-up pedophilia ring run by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.
“Apparently, some alt-right folks were combing through Clinton campaign emails hacked by Russia and published by WikiLeaks and noticed ‘there seemed to be more references to pizza and pizzerias than people had expected,’” Colbert explained to his audience. “Which can only mean one thing: secret sex ring.”
“A lot of uninformed, gullible people fell for the Clinton-Podesta sex ring theory,” the host continued. “People like Trump’s pick for national security advisor, Michael Flynn,” who tweeted out a link to the story a week before Election Day that began with the words, “U decide.”
“OK, then I decide that a guy who spreads this bullshit shouldn’t be in charge of national security,” Colbert said in response. “Here’s the thing,” he continued. “Donald Trump’s transition team has acknowledged that this is disqualifying madness, and they’ve done the right thing, by firing Michael Flynn’s... son for tweeting about Pizzagate. Phew! We really dodged one of the bullets here.”
As Colbert proceeded to reveal, even he has become entangled in this conspiracy, because, as some “Da Vinci chodes” on Reddit have pointed out, he mentioned pizza at the end of his Election Night special. “This is insane,” he said. “I have absolutely no part in the Pizzagate conspiracy... is what they want me to say!” On top of that, Colbert’s name came up in Podesta’s hacked emails in connection with an interview he conducted with President Bill Clinton at a Clinton Global Initiative event in 2013 that turned into two special episodes of The Colbert Report.
“Now, I am flattered that this guy considered it an achievement that he somehow booked President Clinton on my basic cable news parody puppet show,” Colbert said. “But because this staffer took credit for getting Bill on the show, they think I’m on Hillary’s payroll. For the record: She can’t afford me.” The story has even made its way onto Alex Jones’ Infowars show.
“Well, I’m busted,” Colbert said. “You got me! The email proves it!” He admitted that he let Bill Clinton come on his show, filmed the whole thing, put it on TV and even inserted commercials in between the segments. “Oh my God, we were in it for the money!” he realized. ”It’s like these shows are some kind of business!”
Colbert then revealed that the conspiracy theory goes all the way up to our next president, because when Trump was on his show last fall they had a pre-interview where they discussed what they would talk about on the air. But he decided not to read those documents to his audience, “because here’s what these conspiracy theorists don’t get: There’s a difference between a conspiracy and an agreement.”
“A conspiracy is what villains do. An agreement is what adults do,” he said. “Look around the country. Wouldn’t you agree we need some more adults? So WikiLeaks, Alex Jones, and the subreddit sub-geniuses—and I mean this in the nicest way possible: grow the fuck up.”