Late night host and comedian Stephen Colbert's controversial and epithet-laden tirade against President Trump began a public furor that has now led to an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT about the investigation Thursday.
"We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” Pai said.
“Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,” he said. "A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.”
Colbert said Wednesday that he stood by his vulgar comments criticizing the president, despite calls for his firing by outraged Trump supporters. Critics began the hashtag #FireColbert on Twitter to advocate for the cause.
“The only thing your mouth is good at is being [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s c**k holster,” Colbert said in the original tirade.
According to the FCC website, speech must pass a three-tier test to be labeled obscene. “It must appeal to an average person’s prurient interest; depict or describe sexual conduct in a ‘patently offensive’ way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” it says.
Many defenders of Colbert took to social media to accuse the agency, now under President Trump's command, of "censorship," and "fascism."
This is what government censorship looks like https://t.co/XUy4rIICiH— Lauren Duca (@Lauren Duca) 1494021084.0
@lionschmion@megalibrarygirl Welcome to corporate fascism.— Bob Currer (@BobCurrer) May 5, 2017
Hi free speech warriors. This is what literal govt censorship looks like. Even the threat of investigation like thi… https://t.co/LCrQQX660u— David M. Perry (@David M. Perry) 1494020633.0
CNN's Brian Stelter admonished this characterization, saying, "this is not 'censorship,' this is just the FCC doing what the FCC always does. Complaints are frequent, fines are rare."