Stephen Colbert responded Wednesday to online criticism of his off-color joke about President Trump that led to the hashtag #firecolbert and a call to boycott advertisers of the "Late Show," which the comedian hosts.
"So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be," the late night show host said during the taping of Wednesday's broadcast, according to a transcript released by CBS.
"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."
Though President Trump has for months been the target of Colbert's pointed jokes and mockery, many on social media believe he went too far Monday night in making an oral-sex joke regarding Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
#FireColbert was trending on Twitter Wednesday morning. 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's also a new website, firecolbert.com.
The anger from Trump supporters was over a series of jokes that Colbert unloaded in the last two minutes of his monologue on Monday night in reaction to how the president dealt with CBS News political director John Dickerson.
Here are some of them:
"Mr. Trump, your presidency, I love your presidency. I call it "Disgrace the Nation."
"Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine."
"You have more people marching against you than cancer."
"You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head."
And here's the joke that has angered many:
"In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's c-- holster."
Trump supporters immediately took to Twitter, saying Colbert's jokes are homophobic.
A spokeswoman from CBS's "Late Show" and Colbert's agent did not respond to requests for comment.
Colbert's monologues have largely focused on 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 managed to narrow down Fallon's lead and eventually topped his competition. By late March, Colbert's show was averaging nearly 3 million viewers, about 400,000 more than Fallon's.
But as The Washington Post's Callum Borchers wrote, by joking about oral sex, Colbert "rushed the bro-ternity" of Alex Jones, who once said that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., "looks like the archetypal c--sucker," and Jesse Watters, who came under fire for a not-so-subtle joke about Ivanka Trump "speaking into that microphone."
Sitting on a panel on "The Fox News Specialists" on Tuesday, Karl Rove, who was a senior adviser in the administration of former president George W. Bush, called the jokes "lewd," "obscene" and "inappropriate."
"They wrote this. This was not a rant that he came up with on the top of this head. They wrote this," Rove said, adding later: "I'm going to continue to do what I do with anything Colbert. I'm going to refuse to watch the SOB."
Many on Twitter demanded an apology. Others hijacked the trending hashtag with sarcastic jabs at Colbert's critics:
Colbert began his monologue Monday night by making fun of Trump's comments about the first 100 days in office, which the president called a "ridiculous standard."
"Trump has repeatedly said that this 100 days is totally arbitrary, okay. Totally unimportant. And to prove how unimportant it is, he took out a TV ad, he cut a cake on Air Force One, and he held a rally in Pennsylvania," Colbert said. "The theme of that rally, 'Promises Made, Promises Kept.' Which is better than the original slogan, 'Promises made, never mind, never said it, fake news, watch Fox & Friends.' "
He then turned to how Trump abruptly ended the interview with Dickerson, after the "Face the Nation" host asked him if he stands by his claims that President Barack Obama had wiretapped him.
Trump's response to the question was replayed on Colbert's show:
"I don't stand by anything," Trump told Dickerson.
That's when Colbert said: "It's true. He doesn't stand by anything except the dressing room door at Miss USA Pageant. . . . Who needs a lotion?"
But it was Trump telling Dickerson that he was a purveyor of "fake news" and calling his show "Deface the Nation" that seems to have set Colbert off.
In an interview Wednesday with Newsmax TV, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency does not get into the business of regulating content. The Supreme Court, he said, has placed some limits on the authority of the FCC, which regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
"It's a free country. People are willing and able to say just about anything these days," Pai said, adding later that unless a content is indecent, obscene or profane by FCC standards, the agency's authority is "pretty limited."
CBS sent out a transcript of the top of Colbert's Wednesday night show, which taped earlier in the day. He addressed the controversy in the opening moment, joking, "Welcome to 'The Late Show.' I'm your host, Stephen Colbert. Still? I am still the host? I'm still the host!!"
He went on: "Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. 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."
"So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be," he concluded. "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."