Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Stephen Colbert makes fun of Sanford in advance of election

April 2, 2013 by Scott Bomboy


Comedian Stephen Colbert isn’t taking a back seat as his sister will likely take on former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. In fact, he’s committed to two high-profile funding events, and cracking jokes about Sanford.


Colbert At Sanity RallySanford is favored to win a runoff race against former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic on Tuesday night for the Republican nomination for a vacant South Carolina congressional seat.


Sanford would face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Clemson University administrator, in a May 7 election. The winner replaces Republican Tim Scott, who moved on to the U.S. senate to serve as a replacement for Senator Jim DeMint.


Colbert Busch has done well in polling so far in the heavily Republican district. A survey from Lake Research has her with a three-point lead over Sanford. But a Democrat hasn’t taken a House seat from that district in three decades.


Related Link: Can Colbert talk about Sanford on TV?


Sanford is a former two-term governor who left office after acknowledging an extramarital affair.


The race would have generated national attention with just the presence of Sanford alone, whose absence for six days in 2009 was first reported as an “Appalachian Trail hiking trip” by his office. Sanford later said he was in Argentina visiting his mistress.


Now, Sanford must complete a political comeback against the sister of one of the most widely known media figures in America, who also happens to be a political satirist.


Colbert rarely appears out of character in public, but he will host two big fundraisers in mid-April. Politico and CNN have obtained invitations to the events, in Washington and New York City. CNN says the New York invitation refers to Sanford as a “renowned hike-lover.”


Tickets to the events run from $500 to $10,000 (if you attend a private reception) and include co-hosts such as Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Joseph Kennedy, John Lewis, and Carolyn Maloney.


Video: Colbert campaigns for sister at bowling alley


In February 2013, Colbert went in and out of character at a fundraiser for his sister, who he calls Lulu, at a South Carolina bowling alley.


“How lucky would it be for South Carolina and the Low Country to have her, not just because she’s hard-working, and talented and intelligent and dedicated. But she’s sane,” Colbert said to a roaring audience in February.


“We’re a crazy state. I think we invented crazy. From [the] nullification act of the 1840s up to the fact that Lulu’s opponent will be the former governor of the Appalachian Trail, Mark Sanford. This is crazy stuff.”


In June 2009, Colbert joked about Sanford on his TV show, The Colbert Report.


“I have not slept in four days. I’ve been tossing and turning about my fellow South Carolinian, Governor Mark Sanford,” Colbert said, running clips of a January 2008 interview with Sanford and declaring Sanford as “boring.”


A day later, Colbert was “shocked” that Sanford had been engaged in an affair and repeated jokes about Sanford used the previous evening.


In March 2013, Colbert told CNN’s Jake Tapper he would make jokes about Sanford, and his own sister, if he thought they were appropriate.


“Mark Sanford is favored,” Colbert said about the GOP runoff election. “The former governor of the Appalachian Trail. … I will make jokes about it. I said, ‘Lulu, if you do something funny I will make jokes about you.’”


Last month, Constitution Daily looked at the Federal Communications Commission rules to see if Colbert faced any issues if he repeatedly spoke about the race on The Colbert Report.


Although it’s unlikely, Sanford could request equal time, with seven days’ notice, on The Colbert Report if his campaign believes FCC’s equal time rule is in effect. But that could place Sanford on the show as an interview subject, which may not hold much appeal for Sanford.


Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.


Recent Constitution Daily Stories


Background checks remain in gun control limbo


Can you identify the presidents on U.S. coins?


Constitution Check: Why would a terrorism suspect be given Miranda warnings?


Sign up for our email newsletter