The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Stephen Colbert tweaks New York Times report on think tanks

On Sept. 7, the New York Times fronted a thoroughgoing investigation on how foreign governments were seeking to influence Washington via donations to Beltway think tanks. The story started with an anecdote about how Norway had negotiated a $5 million agreement with the Center for Global Development. That’s part of a commitment totaling about $24 million over the past four years from Norway to such research organizations, which have “advocated in Washington for enhancing Norway’s role in NATO, promoted its plans to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and pushed its climate change agenda.”

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert doesn’t sound overly scandalized. After playing a clip of Fox News’s Shepard Smith citing the story in serious tones, Colbert riffed, “Yes, foreign governments are buying influence. So good news — America has an export.” The Times story quotes a Japanese official as giving this explanation for why it pays money to U.S. research groups: “Japan is not necessarily the most interesting subject around the world.” Colbert scoffed at such a self-assessment: “Yes, there’s nothing interesting about Japan. Take away the whaling, the sex robots and the strapping meat to the heads of teenage girls — other than that, it’s basically Ohio.”