Home News Stephen Colbert doesn’t apologize for Kate Middleton jokes

Stephen Colbert doesn’t apologize for Kate Middleton jokes


After Kate Middleton revealed her cancer diagnosis Friday, Stephen Colbert was at the top of many people’s lists of celebrities who should apologize for making jokes about her months-long retreat from public life, especially because the late-night host did a comedy bit that regurgitated an old, unsubstantiated rumor that her marriage to Prince William was in trouble because he cheated.

But when it came time on his show Monday night to address his jokes about the Princess of Wales, Colbert didn’t apologize, as many demanded.

Instead “The Late Show” host offered an explanation for how the joke came about, justified his job of telling jokes about things “everyone is talking about,” and suggested that he never would have made jokes about her situation if he had been aware that she was dealing with a “harrowing” cancer diagnosis.”

“There are standards I try to hold myself to,” Colbert said. “I do not make light of somebody else’s tragedy.”

Two weeks ago, “everybody” was talking about Kate’s self-proclaimed “amateur” editing job on a family photo, which had erupted into a global PR nightmare for the British royal family because it helped fuel conspiracy theories alleging that the royal family was hiding a dark truth about her health and whereabouts. She was last seen in public on Christmas Day, with Kensington Palace saying she had undergone abdominal surgery for an unspecified condition in January and would not return to public duties until after Easter.

On his March 12 show, Colbert brought up a rumor that began circulating in 2019 – one that even the most gossip-mongering publications in the U.K. never touched because it was unproven and so incendiary. The rumor is that William supposedly had an affair with a socialite friend, Rose Hanbury, who also carries title, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

“The kingdom has been all aflutter by the seeming disappearance of Kate Middleton,” Colbert said in his opening monologue. “Well, now internet sleuths are guessing that Kate’s absence may be related to her husband and the future king of England, William, having an affair.”

Colbert said that his “heart goes out to poor Kate,” but quipped that he’s “ready to spill the tea, literally.”

By joking about this rumor on his show, the American host pushed it into the mainstream, a situation that angered many royal fans, as well as Hanbury herself. Vanity Fair reported that the marchioness sent him a legal notice.

After Kate revealed in a globally viewed video that her surgery in January discovered cancer, get-well messages poured in from world leaders and celebrities. So, too, did self-recriminations from Blake Lively and others online who had made jokes at her expense. Kim Kardashian, though, has remained silent about her own Kate Middleton joke. Colbert didn’t say anything over the weekend, but many expected that he would address his royal comedy bit on his show Monday — which he did, though probably not to everyone’s satisfaction.

Colbert began what he may have thought was enough of a mea culpa by saying, “I tell a lot of jokes about a lot of different things, mostly about what everyone is talking about” he said. “For the last six week to two months. everybody has been talking about the disappearance of Kate Middleton from public life.”

“Two weeks ago, we did some jokes about that mystery and all the attendant (frou frou) in the reporting about that,” Colbert continued. “When I made those jokes, that upset some people.”

Colbert was careful to point out that he did his comedy bit “before her diagnosis was revealed,” but he also said he “can understand” why his joke still upset people.

“A lot of my jokes have upset people in the past, and I’m sure some of my jokes will upset people in the future,” he said. After Colbert explained that he would never exploit someone else’s tragedy for jokes, he said, “I don’t know whether if her prognosis is a tragic one. She’s the future queen of England. I assume she’ll get the best possible medical care.”

“Regardless of what it is, I know, and I’m sure far too many of us know that any cancer diagnosis of any kind is harrowing for the patient and their family their family,” Colbert said. “And though I’m sure, they don’t need it from me, I and every one here at ‘The Late Show’ would like to extend our well wishes and heart-felt hope that her recovery is swift and thorough.”

With that, Colbert switched gears, introduced his “Late Show” band and moved onto other topics..

On X, some royal reporters weighed in on Colbert’s comments. ITV reporter Chris Ship said that Colbert appeared to be “remorseful,” but author Valentine Low suggested that the late-night host wasn’t owning up to the hurt he caused.

“Colbert acts as if the cancer diagnosis came completely out of the blue,” Low wrote on X. “In a sense it did. But the palace said she had had surgery, and would be away for several weeks. So she hadn’t ‘disappeared.’ She was doing what they said she would. And clearly was not in a great place.”

In a reply to Low, Australian entertainment reporter Peter Ford said, “And it fell far short of an apology for referencing a person who did not need to be named on a national TV show for any comedic purpose. As you say he did not need to be a psychic to know her condition was serious.”

While Ford said that no one should be forced to apologize if they don’t feel genuine about it, he said of Colbert’s comments:  “If you’re going to do it then do it properly and with detail. This was simply self serving hoping to make the criticism go away.”

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