Stephen Colbert Addresses Staff Arrests on Capitol Hill: 'This Was First-Degree Puppetry'
By Miguel A. Melendez
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Stephen Colbert has addressed the events that led to the arrest of Robert Smigel, the comedian behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and members of his show's staff last week on Capitol Hill.
The Late Show host explained during Monday night's monologue that Smigel and six other members of his team were cleared by congressional aides to visit the Longworth House Office Building, which is across the street from the U.S. Capitol building. He said the staff went through security clearance and interviewed members of Congress all day Wednesday and all day Thursday last week after their interview requests were granted by members of Congress.
Colbert then explained how the arrests transpired.
"After they finished their interviews, they were doing some last-minute puppetry and jokey make-em-ups in a hallway, when Triumph and my folks were approached and detained by the Capitol police -- which actually isn't that surprising," Colbert said. "The Capitol police are much more cautious than they were, say 18 months ago, and for a very good reason," he added, referring to the deadly insurrection that took place on Jan. 6, 2021, resulting in five deaths and hundreds injured.
Colbert noted that, despite the unpleasant experience, the situation was relatively calm from both parties.
"The Capitol police were just doing their job, my staff was just doing their job, everyone was very professional, everyone was very calm," he said. "My staffers were detained, processed and released."
Smigel and the staffers were charged with unlawful entry. The U.S. Capitol Police also released a statement saying the agency may add additional charges after consulting with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"A very unpleasant experience for my staff," Colbert said. "A lot of paperwork for the Capitol police, but a fairly simple story."
That is, Colbert said, until the next night when "a couple of the TV people started claiming that my puppet squad had 'committed insurrection' at the U.S. Capitol building."
Colbert responded to the claim saying, "First of all, what? Second of all, huh? Third of all, they weren't in the Capitol building!"
The Late Show host then got serious and blasted those critics for making such an unwarranted comparison.
"An insurrection involves disrupting the lawful actions of Congress and howling for the blood of elected leaders, all to prevent the peaceful transfer of power," he explained. "This was first-degree puppetry. This was high jinks with intent to goof. Misappropriation of an old Conan [O'Brien] bit."
He added, "Drawing any equivalence between rioters storming our Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral ballots and a cigar-chomping toy dog is shameful and a grotesque insult to the memory of everyone who died."