Stephen Colbert may not be a journalist himself, but he doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable questions, either. On Thursday night, the Late Show host confronted his guest, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, about why a journalist wouldn’t want to go after Donald Trump when the president lies so frequently.
“If he lies all the time, why wouldn’t you attack him?” Colbert asked.
His answer? “Because there are good things and bad things. Seriously.”
Colbert likened that response to saying, “If you pour poison in a cup of water, there’s still water in there.” He added, “But I’m not gonna drink it ’cause I’ll be poisoned.”
Wallace pointed to the economic growth in America during the reign of the Trump administration, but Colbert was quick to note that growth largely began during Barack Obama’s presidency. “You understand that the economic recovery did not start on Jan. 1, 2017?” Wallace agreed with that statement, but said “it has continued [under Trump], it hasn’t gone in the other direction.”
The Fox News host did say that he doesn’t entirely support Trump. For one, he called the president’s “enemy of the people” remarks against mainstream media to be “outrageous” and “absolutely unacceptable.” He also quoted Navy SEAL Bill McCraven, who called Trump’s claims against the press to be “the greatest threat to the democracy.” But the two continued to spar over immigration and Trump’s “fear-stoking speech” about the caravan coming to invade America. Colbert even seemed to catch Wallace making a false assertion when his producers fact-checked a statement.
“Fear of the caravan is not good, but the idea that three, or five, or seven thousand people from another country can just walk up to our border, knock on the door, and say, ‘We want in! We want to take jobs here, we want to work here,’ no,” Wallace said in defense of Trump’s rhetoric. “A country does need to have borders and there does need to be some kind of system that determines whether or not people are allowed in the country. Seriously, do you believe in open borders?”
Colbert’s response? “No. We don’t have an open border. There is a system, and three-to-five thousand people will not make it here. This has happened many times before, and they never do, and you know that. And you know that there is a system in place, and there is a legal system, and we have laws that allow asylum. So I believe in the law. Do you believe in the law, Chris Wallace?”
Wallace said he does believe in the law but went on to assert that “about 10 percent of the people that are caught and released return for their hearings. And only about 10 percent actually get legitimate asylum.” As soon as Colbert called on his producers to check that statement, Wallace backtracked, saying he could be wrong about that first part.
As it turns out, he was wrong about that first part. Citing PolitiFact, Colbert’s team found “60-70 percent of non-detained immigrants attended immigration court proceedings. So you were 50-60 percent wrong.” Wallace was correct in his approximation about immigrants who received asylum: about “12 percent.”