Stephen Colbert is responding to Internet outrage over his barbed jokes about President Donald Trump that spawned a "#FireColbert" campaign this week.
After escalating pushback on social media, he opened Wednesday's show, taped in late afternoon, by telling his audience, "Welcome to The Late Show. I’m your host, Stephen Colbert. Still? I am still the host? I’m still the host!!" according to an advance transcript of the broadcast provided by CBS.
"Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine," he said in a reference to Face the Nation host John Dickerson, whom Trump walked away from mid-interview when Dickerson pressed him about his claims that President Obama had wiretapped him. "So at the end of that monologue, I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don’t regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight."
But while he stopped short of apologizing, he said he might have chosen different words in describing what Trump's mouth was good for, in relation to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
"While I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be," he said. "I’m not going to repeat the phrase, but I just want to say for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person, in their own way, is to me an American hero. I think we can all agree on that. I hope even the president and I can agree on that. Nothing else. But, that."
After welcoming lead guest Jim Parsons, who stars in the network's top-rated comedy The Big Bang Theory, the two then further discuss the "controversy," though CBS did not provide details of the conversation.