WASHINGTON • Comedian Stephen Colbert unapologetically responded on Wednesday to online criticism of his off-colour joke about United States President Donald Trump that led to the hashtag #FireColbert and a call to boycott advertisers of his Late Show.
"Welcome to The Late Show. I'm your host, Stephen Colbert. Still? I am still the host? I'm still the host!" he said triumphantly.
"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 added, referring to comments Mr Trump made to CBS Face The Nation host John Dickerson about his show.
"So at the end of that monologue I had a few choice insults for the President in return. I don't regret that," he said, the audience breaking out in applause.
Though Mr Trump has for months been the target of Colbert's pointed jokes and mockery, many on social media believe he went too far in making an oral-sex joke regarding Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The joke triggered the trending Twitter hashtag #FireColbert, with Trump supporters pleading for a boycott of CBS Corp advertisers, some people accusing Colbert of being homophobic, others accusing left-wingers of hypocrisy, and still more defending the comedian.
A new Twitter account called @firecolbert tweeted: "It's time to #FireColbert! It's time he be removed from CBS. Let your voice be heard! #Boycott all of Stephen Colbert's advertisers."
There is also a new website, firecolbert.com.
Earlier, Mr Trump had abruptly ended the interview with Dickerson, after the host asked him if he stands by his claims that former president Barack Obama had wiretapped him. Mr Trump told Dickerson that he was a purveyor of "fake news" and called his show Deface The Nation.
Colbert said of the President on Wednesday: "He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it's a fair fight. So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be."
The talk show host's monologues have largely focused on Mr Trump, his aides and their gaffes, and his lampooning of the President seems to have paid off. Just last year, he was trailing far behind Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show.
Colbert has managed to chip away at Fallon's lead and eventually top his competition. By late March, his show was averaging nearly three million viewers, about 400,000 more than Fallon's.
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS