Back in September, the Democratic party’s leading presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, ended weeks of speculation when NBC announced her as a mid-month guest on The Tonight Show. Competing Republicans like Donald Trump and Jeb Bush had already made late night appearances by then, but aside from a goofy daytime visit on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Clinton hadn’t hit the talk show circuit at that point.
Since then, she has danced with DeGeneres, laughed off her ongoing email scandal with Jimmy Fallon, and done numerous, more serious interviews with multiple broadcast and cable television news outlets. Clinton was later to the media game than most of the other major 2016 presidential candidates, but with the first debate for the Democratic party on the horizon, her reluctance to appear on camera seems to have faded.
Unless the venue is Stephen Colbert‘s new Late Show. Clinton nixed CBS’ offer to appear in the premiere — opting instead for Fallon’s fun and games over at NBC. (She also made a small cameo in Saturday Night Live‘s premiere, again mostly for fun and games.) Of all the late night programs she could possibly go to, Clinton chose not to talk shop with non-Colbert Report Colbert. Maybe that’s why her campaign sent her husband and former president, Bill Clinton to the show on Tuesday.
Maybe Bill’s appearance on the Late Show was a calculated move by Hillary’s campaign, maybe it wasn’t. Sure, Clinton used the appearance to promote the Clinton Global Initiative, but Colbert couldn’t resist asking the ex-politician a few questions about the 2016 election cycle.
The first two of Colbert’s three promised questions concerned Bill’s thoughts on why Democratic party competitor Bernie Sanders and GOP front-runner Trump were doing so well. Both questions were general, yet to the point, and Clinton answered both with strikingly similar talking points:
- Everyone thinks “the system is rigged against them and the rich get all the gains.”
- Everyone wants a president who will fix the system.
Both the Sanders and Trump answers, give or take a few partisan specifics, can be boiled down to these statements. And while they’re not all that special in terms of what has already been said, the quickness with which Bill gave them is telling. It’s almost like he and Colbert had discussed these particular subjects before.
The third, which Colbert used to determine whether or not Clinton had asked Trump to run for president, doesn’t really help the interview’s case for authenticity either. Following the audience’s laughter and applause, Bill quickly used the opportunity to deny the claim: “I get credit for doing a lot of things I didn’t do.” Being the comedian that he is, Colbert was unable to resist the urge to step in and jokingly inference Clinton’s famous affair with Monica Lewinsky, but that was the worst of it.
Rush Limbaugh-esque conspiracy theories aside, Colbert’s questions for Bill were still more politically poignant than anything Fallon or DeGeneres asked Hillary on their shows. Maybe this is why her campaign decided not to do the Late Show. Because despite the comedy, there would actually be questions, and considering the weight of the political interviews he has done so far (not to mention his time on the Colbert Report), Colbert is better equipped than most to ask these kinds of questions (and more) in late night.
Maybe Hillary’s campaign was too scared to do the Late Show. Maybe that’s why they sent in Bill.
After all, Bill and Colbert have had a fairly friendly professional relationship during the past few years. When they did a special episode of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report in 2013, Colbert’s pundit character signed Clinton up for a Twitter account (@PrezBillyJeff). The whole thing was a gimmick, but Clinton immediately began using an authenticated account. His first tweet? Praise for Colbert.
Just spent amazing time with Colbert! Is he sane? He is cool! #cgiu
— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) April 6, 2013
It’s the proverbial olive branch, except this olive branch talks with a slight southern drawl.
Check out the clip above, via CBS.
[Image via screengrab]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]