Stephen Colbert has always been at his best in the face of outright liars—you’d expect no less from the man who coined the word “truthiness”—and Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green massacre” story inspired him to return to rhetorical heights he hasn’t reached since the Bush administration. But not without giving audiences a little peek behind the curtain at the way Trump exploits the peg-driven culture of the content industry by piling outrage upon outrage:
I was not going to talk about this story, because it happened last Thursday, and the crazy train had gone way down the track since then, and I figured this tired hobo just missed his chance to jump in the box car. But today the president just gave me a reason to talk about it.
When a senior advisor to the president is justifying policy on the basis of massacres that never happened, that really shouldn’t be a Thursday-only story, even if Trump and his cronies have moved on to wilder things in the interim. But it’s fortunate that Colbert and his staff found an excuse to bring up Conway, because watching Colbert string negatives together like Martin Amis imitating Samuel Beckett is a delight:
I think we all remember where we weren’t when we didn’t hear that nothing had happened. … Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it wasn’t an inside job. Think about it! If America isn’t going to be attacked, who’s most likely not to do it? Us! … I demand that the media not release the reports they did not do on the attacks that did not occur. And I will not rest until they don’t!
Moving to CBS may have softened Colbert’s edges, but it’s good to see he can still take an absurd lie from an absurd advisor to an absurd president all the way to its absurd conclusion. Something tells me that’s going to come in handy over the next four years.