Stephen Colbert's Trump-Putin Joke Must Pass This Government Test

Federal law bans obscene, indecent and profane content from being broadcast on TV during certain times of the day.
Posted at 3:25 PM, May 05, 2017

There have been questions if the Federal Communications Commission can crack down on Stephen Colbert for his comment Monday night on "The Late Show." 

"The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's ---- holster," Colbert said.

That remark got Twitter buzzing. Some called it "homophobic" and said Colbert should be fired.

Federal law bans content that's obscene, indecent or profane from being broadcast during certain times of the day. And the FCC will look into a comment if it receives a public complaint.

The Supreme Court has a three-pronged test to decide if something is obscene: It must be "prurient," "patently offensive" and lacking significant "literary, artistic, political or scientific value."

Indecent programming involves offensive sexual or excretory material that doesn't meet the obscenity test. So, think of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

And profane content is "grossly offensive" language that's deemed a public nuisance.

Anything obscene is banned at all times of the day. But the FCC lets networks air indecent or profane content between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. because children aren't as likely to be watching.

"The Late Show" airs in that so-called "safe harbor" slot, so it's off the hook for indecency and profanity.

And in all honesty, the FCC chair didn't seem too concerned about Colbert's comment when he was asked about it during an interview on Fox Business.

"So, we haven't yet had a chance to look at the clip," Ajit Pai said. "We've been a little busy."

Colbert said Wednesday he doesn't regret his comments but said some were "cruder than they needed to be."