Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/File
Stephen Colbert participates in 'The Late Show' segment of the CBS Summer TCA Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., August 2015.

Donald Trump vs. Stephen Colbert. Who won?

Stephen Colbert played a faux-Trump character on his old 'Colbert Report' Comedy Central show. So when the two met Tuesday night, there must have been fireworks, right?

In many ways, it was a dream matchup: Donald Trump versus Stephen Colbert, who played a faux-Trump character on his old “Colbert Report” Comedy Central show.

This face-off took place Tuesday night on the set of Mr. Colbert’s new hangout, the CBS “Late Show." There must have been fireworks, right? You’ve got Mr. Trump, who’s pushing a harsh anti-immigration program and continues to imply that he thinks President Obama was born in Kenya, talking with a skilled host who, in his new incarnation as a real person, appears to lean to the left.

Not really. What you got was an encounter of the mild kind. Trump seemed toned-down in front of an audience he assumed would not be supportive. Colbert seemed unwilling to offend his guest.

For instance, at the start, Colbert apologized to Trump for the many times he had insulted Trump in the past. The billionaire accepted this gesture with equanimity. He declined Colbert’s offer to apologize himself for anything he’d said about anyone. (Megyn Kelly, anyone?)

Trump seemed un-Trumpian. He kept nodding in response to Colbert’s jokes, saying agreeably, “Sure, you’re right." When he talked about building his wall on the southern US border, and invoked the Great Wall of China, Colbert interjected that Jesus had helped build that.

“You’re right, you’re right,” said Trump. Then, he barreled back into his immigration talking points.

One moment of near-tension illustrates the show’s dynamic. Colbert said that he would offer Trump an easy "big, fat meatball" question. “There’s sauce all over my hand this meatball is so big,” Colbert said.

Then, he asked this: “Barack Obama, born in the United States?”

Trump skittered sideways, implying again that he continues to believe in the discredited notion that the president is a foreigner, and thus constitutionally unfit for the job.

“I don’t really talk about it anymore,” he said. “I talk about jobs, I talk about our veterans being horribly mistreated.”

Colbert didn’t press the issue, so Trump rambled for a bit on the veterans subject. In doing so, he’s behaving as a skilled politician, we’ll point out. Good politicos know that when you’re hit with a tough question, answer the question you wish they’d asked, not the actual query.

That’s what Ben Carson did not do when asked whether a Muslim should be president of the US. He said they should not, producing days of negative headlines for himself, and possibly damaging the GOP as a whole.

One of the biggest laughs of the encounter came at the end of a game of “Trump or Colbert," in which Trump had to guess whether a particular quote came from himself or from Colbert’s conservative “Colbert Report” character.

The final quote was, “The real strong have no need to prove it to the phonies."

Trump said, “It’s not me. It could be you.”

“It’s not me, either,” said Colbert. “It’s Charles Manson.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Donald Trump vs. Stephen Colbert. Who won?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today