Colbert, Still Digesting His Correspondents' Dinner Reception

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Comedy Central's faux news show host Stephen Colbert stupidly delivered a stingingly satirical speech about President Bush and those who cover him at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner because "he was under the impression they had hired him to do the thing he does on TV every night," Jon Stewart quipped last night on his "Daily Show."

At this annual black-tie dinner, Stewart explained to his viewers, the White House and the correspondents who cover it "consummate their loveless marriage."

This year, according to news accounts of the clambake, the president and first lady were unamused by Colbert's remarks to the estimated 2,600 people who attended. In his speech, Colbert, a former "Daily Show" correspondent who now follows Stewart with his own program, "The Colbert Report," advised Bush to ignore his lousy approval ratings because they were based on reality "and reality has a well-known liberal bias." Colbert also made no friends in the crowd when he advised them to remember the rules of covering the White House: "The president makes decisions . . . the press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions." In your spare time, he advised them, "write that novel you got kicking around in your head -- you know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction."

Colbert called it "the greatest weekend of my entire life." What some reported as a tepid reception to his patter was actually "very respectful silence," Colbert joked on his show last night. "The crowd practically carried me out on their shoulders" -- albeit before he was ready to leave, he added.

* * *

Thirty-five percent of "American Idol" voters believe their votes on the singing competition count more than or as much as voting in a presidential election, according to the latest navel-gazing study of the Fox series -- this one by Washington-based public opinion research firm Pursuant Inc.

This may be because on "Idol" you're encouraged to vote early and often, whereas in the presidential election you get to vote only once, except maybe in parts of Florida where "over-voting" looked like it might catch on in 2000.

And, mercifully, in "Idol" elections, 1 vote = 1 vote, unlike our system for picking our president.

But, hey, why rain on another study on "American Idol"?

According to this week's "Idol" study, more "Idol" viewers -- 39 percent -- are likely to be from the South.

Maybe that's because most of the contestants are from the South -- at this point four of the remaining five.

But, hey, why rain on the latest study on "American Idol"?

More interesting is why Pursuant -- whose clients include the American Dietetic Association Foundation, Dairy Management Inc., Kaiser Permanente and the National Institutes of Health -- did a study on "American Idol," other than the obvious "for publicity, stupid" reason.

Pursuant President Melissa Marcello, who is an adjunct instructor at Georgetown University in the communication, culture and technology master's program, says her background is in political sociology and she's interested in what all this "Idol" stuff means for "civil society."

"There's a lot of information here we should study," Marcello told The TV Column, preaching to the choir.

"There are things that one could learn -- politicians."


"Why it's so popular, and what this might mean for the presidential primaries."

We've known all long that "American Idol" was educational but were pleasantly surprised to find anyone else in Washington who was willing to publicly pretend to also subscribe, and asked for elaboration.

"I think there's something to authenticity here," Marcello said.

"They are not stars; they are young people who have big dreams. We're getting a window into their worlds. It's not always pretty, not perfect, they're potentially torn apart by Simon [Cowell] on any given week, but they're really putting themselves out there," she said. Kellie Pickler, who was booted last week, "says things like 'snot rag,' which is not a pretty word . . . but we do see something about authenticity.

"So much of what happens in politics is so scripted. One of the things I'm constantly struck with is the lack of authenticity in politics. . . . Wouldn't it be refreshing to see a politician make a misstep and say, 'I'm sorry.' There's something about that, that we're lacking."

Along those lines, we wondered which of the remaining "Idol" contestants Marcello thought would be most likely to be elected president.

Taylor Hicks, she said without hesitation: "I don't think he has a great voice, don't think he's a great dancer, but he has charisma -- people like that about him. He's got that Bill Clinton likability."

"Taylor would make a good president, especially if Dick Cheney were his running mate," Marcello continued.

"Cheney would be doing all the work and Taylor would be out there doing his song and dance," she said.

Like W? we had to ask, naturally.

"I think he's closer to Bill Clinton," she repeated firmly.

That said, she doesn't think Taylor stands a chance of winning the "Idol" competition. Rocker boy Chris Daughtry, he of the scary Charles Mansonesque "vote for me if you know what's good for you" camera eye contact, is going to win, she predicted.

Heck, you don't have to be an adjunct instructor at Georgetown University in the communication, culture and technology master's program to figure that one out. You just have to know where to find the latest odds from the online gambling sites -- where they're predicting Chris has this thing sewn up.

Daughtry, however, is not presidential material, she said.

And what of the remaining Idolettes' chances in a presidential race?

Of giggly, pouty, perfectly trained Katharine McPhee, Marcello said, "I see her more as a first lady than commander in chief."

"She would make a very attractive wife to a president. . . . I don't see her as a Geena Davis."

The other remaining female "Idol" contestant, Paris Bennett, also doesn't stand a chance, Marcello said, even though her research shows nearly 73 percent of "Idol" voters are women. That's because it's too hard to reconcile Paris's Betty Boop speaking voice and her big Broadway singing voice; she "sounds so much like an impersonator," Marcello said.

Elliott Yamin is "like Mr. Smith," she continued, clarifying that she meant as in "Goes to Washington," played by James Stewart, not as in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" played by Brangelina.

Even so, she pronounced Yamin the most "real" of the contestants -- right before suggesting that he would benefit from getting porcelain veneers.

"He's probably honest, humble."

Yup. Un-electable.

Oh, and for those of you say you read/heard somewhere that more people vote for "American Idol" than voted for the president of the United States: hooey! Nearly 57 percent of voting-age people in the United States voted in the last presidential election, according to the Federal Election Commission's Web site. Whereas, according to Pursuant's study, 10 percent of the U.S. adult population has voted for an "American Idol" contestant this round.

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