Colbert apologises to ISIS, recently unseated by Trump as 'the enemy of the American people'

Late Show host Stephen Colbert's joke underscores a larger point: The US President has had strong words for the Islamic State, but, of late, his strongest words have been for the media.
Late Show host Stephen Colbert's joke underscores a larger point: The US President has had strong words for the Islamic State, but, of late, his strongest words have been for the media. PHOTO: AFP

(Washington Post) - To become the top threat to the United States, the Islamic State has engaged in years of brutality, beheadings and propaganda - manifesting an American nightmare scenario.

But as of last week, all that is good for is second place on the list of US enemies, according to Late Show host Stephen Colbert.

The change is due to a tweet - a presidential tweet, but still a tweet.

Last week, President Donald Trump declared the United States news media the "enemy of the American people". And he called out a few names that he considered particularly egregious: the New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CNN and CBS.

"You know who I feel bad for? ISIS," Colbert said during his monologue. "They try so hard. Sorry, ISIS. If you want to get on the list, you've got to publish photos of Trump's inauguration crowd. Then he'll be really, really angry at you. So sad. Hidden victims."

Colbert's joke underscores a larger point: Mr Trump has had strong words for the Islamic State, but, of late, his strongest words have been for the media. He has been battling them since he was on the campaign trail, even banning several news organisations, including The Washington Post, from campaign events.

And the tumult didn't end when candidate Trump became President Trump.

A day after his inauguration, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the media had played down the size of the crowds. He's called reporters "among the most dishonest human beings on earth". Earlier this month, he speculated that the media was covering up terrorist attacks.

Of course, members of the media have responded, saying they're not too fond of Mr Trump's tactics, either.

"Trump's attacks on the American press as 'enemies of the American people' are more treacherous than Richard Nixon's attacks on the press," former Post reporter Carl Bernstein told CNN. Trump's comments are reminiscent of "dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler."

In an editorial, the New York Times said "the language that Mr Trump deployed on Friday is more typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organisations. It also echoed the language of autocrats who seek to minimize dissent".

It's unclear what tactic Trump intends to use to thwart the US' new No. 1 enemy, although Colbert pointed out that within days of declaring the media the country's enemy, Mr Trump announced a new national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

"I swear to do everything in my power to protect the nation from America's enemies, which I am being told are CBS and the failing New York Times," Colbert said, mocking Gen. McMaster's introductory remarks. "Wow, things have really changed since I was in the Army five minutes ago."