Writers union blasts FCC chair over Colbert review

The Writers Guild of America blasted Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday for saying he would look into complaints about Stephen Colbert’s recent joke about President Trump.

Pai said last week that the FCC would examine the complaints it has received about Colbert’s comments, which it does whenever viewers send in complaints.

The guild, though, said it was “appalled” by the decision.


“Pai’s remarks are just the latest in a series of statements by the current administration indicating a willful disregard of the First Amendment,” Howard Rodman and Michael Winship, the respective presidents of the west and east chapters of the writers union, said in a joint statement.

“Colbert was poking fun at authority, a time-honored American tradition and an essential principle of democracy.”

The FCC declined to comment.

Last week, during his opening monologue on “The Late Show,” Colbert said in remarks addressed to Trump that “the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c--k holster.”

The agency will be reviewing complaints from viewers, but that does not mean it is likely to take action.

The FCC can impose sanctions if it finds that “obscene” material was broadcast between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. But “Safe harbor” rules generally protect late-night comedians who make crude jokes.

“We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” Pai said in a radio interview last week.

“For content to be ruled obscene, it must meet a three-pronged test established by the Supreme Court: It must appeal to an average person's prurient interest; depict or describe sexual conduct in a ‘patently offensive’ way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” reads the FCC’s website.

“What is obscene is not what Colbert said but any attempt by the government to stifle dissent and creativity,” Rodman and Winship said. “Our unions vehemently support Colbert and his writers and will fight for their or anyone’s right to publicly express his or her opinion of our elected officials.”