Vinay Menon: Fox News has bravely identified new American insurrectionists: Stephen Colbert and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

Actor and comedian Robert Smigel performs as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in the hallway outside the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Fox News has found the real insurrectionist: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

It seems the network, or at least its opinion slingers, really want to ignore the actual Jan. 6 hearings. That’s not surprising. For the past 18 months, Fox’s opinion slingers have ducked and jumped side to side as if in a dodge ball tournament against reality itself.

A violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last year, causing death and destruction? No way! Those were peaceful protesters and tourists. It’s like at the Eiffel Tower when you see tourists attacking security guards with fire extinguishers. Or at the Great Pyramid of Giza, where tourists routinely bear-spray tomb guides while chanting, “Hang Khufu!”

Fox has ignored insurrection more than ESPN ignores zorbing.

That changed last week when staffers from “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police for unlawful entry. The crew had spent two days filming. Triumph, a snarky dog puppet, interviewed politicians for a segment on the hearings. The late-night crew were invited inside the citadel of American democracy by lawmakers. Unlike the actual insurrectionists, the crew did not smash windows with the hope of strangling Nancy Pelosi. They were there to make comedy, not overthrow an election.

Unlike Jan. 6, there were no fatalities last week.

Everything was fine until the final interview ended and the crew loitered in the hallways to film closing bits. This is standard practice. But since the crew had bid farewell to its credentialed chaperones, they were seen by Capitol Police as unaccompanied trespassers. Fair enough.

But this was not unlawful entry — it was a sluggish TV exit.

Still, you can understand why Capitol Police are on high alert after last year’s bloody rampage. Colbert’s staff were arrested, charged and released. As he noted during Monday’s monologue: “The Capitol Police were just doing their job. My staff was just doing their job. Everyone was very professional. Everyone was very calm … A fairly simple story. Until the next night, when a couple of the TV people started claiming that my puppet squad had, quote, committed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.”

I hope there is a blowout sale at the Sigh Superstore. Because it’s 2022 and I’m fresh out of sighs. Tucker Carlson was one of the Fox hosts to describe Colbert’s staff as “insurrectionists.” Yes, a cigar-chomping, rubber Rottweiler voiced by comedian Robert Smigel is the true enemy of the state. I pray Mr. Carlson never watches “The Muppets Take Manhattan.” He’ll see evidence of a Deep State conspiracy involving Fauci-funded amnesia projects, dark Saudi money and that amphibian shill known as Kermit.

Meanwhile, Fox’s Sean Hannity — whose personal texts have appeared more than once during the Jan. 6 hearings — had some pressing queries for his viewers about the Team Colbert arrests: “Where’s the outrage from the Democrats? Aren’t they concerned about trespassing and securing the Capitol? Or is that only when they can use it to attack Donald Trump?”

Yes, Sean, where is the outrage? An unarmed TV crew, putting the closing touches on a comedy bit, made the grave mistake of overstaying a sanctioned welcome to film more B-roll? What if the boom mic contained explosives? What if the gaffer was on a recon mission, plotting to discover where Lindsey Graham hides his spine? Was this a planned Colbert coup?

Imagine if Triumph locked his jaws on Mitch McConnell’s ankle. Or if the cameraman flung a lens cap at Marjorie Taylor Greene as she ambled past, en route to a Zoom interview to reveal Jesus did, in fact, own an AR-15.

This comedy segment could have subverted democracy.

But give the gold medal in this absurd game of false equivalence to Fox contributor and former congressman Jason Chaffetz. As he told Hannity with a straight face: “I want to see these people prosecuted to the same degree and the same outrage that the left pretends on Jan. 6 people.”

And jaywalkers should hereby be charged with intergalactic arson.

In response to Fox smearing his staff as seditionists, Colbert offered this crucial distinction on Monday night: “An insurrection involves disrupting the lawful actions of Congress and howling for the blood of elected leaders, all to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. This was first-degree puppetry.”

But you know what? Fox’s ridiculous overreaction to this nonstory only proves the real story — the damning Jan. 6 hearings — is slicing through the polarized forcefields. A recent survey found a majority of Americans believe Trump should be prosecuted for plotting to steal the 2020 election.

I’m not sure how anyone can conclude otherwise.

Fox is now in a pickle the shape of Laura Ingraham’s crooked smile.

It can’t run with the shocking evidence emerging from the hearings because it has spent 18 months ignoring what happened. Fox has a MAGA base and reality is the least of it. These viewers, their brains scrambled with lies and conspiracies, don’t want to hear about how Trump is Judas.

They just want Sean and Tucker to muddy the treacherous waters.

And if the mendacious talking heads can equate a Hollywood puppet to actual insurrectionists who wanted to hang Mike Pence, so be it.

Fox News was founded with a Faustian bargain: it would swap honesty for the eyeballs of the enraged. It would get ratings by spooking pensioners and riling up mobs in phantom culture wars it stoked for even more ratings.

The Jan. 6 hearings are making this bargain very hard.

All Fox can do now is condemn a dog puppet and change the subject.

Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon


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