On Monday night, “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert interviewed Oliver Stone about Stone’s two-year journey to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin, and let’s just say things were a little tense.
Stone’s interviews with Putin have been put into a four-night event on Showtime called “The Putin Interviews” (it premiered Monday night), in which the director touches on everything from Edward Snowden to the accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
As Colbert does with guests who have a movie or TV show to plug, he opened showing a brief clip from Stone’s documentary. It showed Stone bringing up how Putin’s influence could affect something like the US election if he publicly supported one candidate over another, which led to Putin’s saying he didn’t interfere with domestic affairs of other countries. Stone had no follow-up question — instead he thanked Putin and ended the interview session for the day.
After touching on the criticism that Stone was too soft on Putin, Colbert pounced on the clip he showed and questioned why Stone didn’t ask a follow-up question.
“That doesn’t seem like an interview — that seems like an opportunity for him to merely propagandize,” Colbert said.
“In the fourth hour I pressed him on the election coming up for him in 2018 and I also pressed him on this issue of Mr. Trump, the whole hacking thing, and cyberwarfare,” Stone said. “This is important. The cyberwarfare is very complex — I don’t take it lightly.”
Things got even more tense when Stone gave his thoughts about Putin, saying the leader had been “assaulted and abused.” This led to groans from the audience. Stone quickly added “abused in the press, in the media,” which led to even more groans and snickering.
Colbert then asked, “Anything about him negative you found?”
“What is wrong with détente with Russia? Why would you be against it? I don’t understand this mentality. Maybe it’s because you hate Trump,” Stone said, referring to Colbert’s countless jabs at President Donald Trump on his show.
“Hate is a strong word. I don’t trust him,” Colbert replied.
“You don’t trust him,” Stone said. “So therefore Russia is convenient as an excuse for hacking the election.”
Colbert replied: “I don’t understand why our president will never say anything negative about Vladimir Putin given that Putin is an oppressive leader of his country who suppresses the free press and arrests his enemies. That is not something that I, as an American and member of the press, can respect. And I’m surprised that you do respect that.”
The “Late Show” audience cheered. Stone then said, “Well, you know I’ve always been for free speech.”
“Yes, and it doesn’t seem like he would be a hero of that,” Colbert said.
It was the kind of back-and-forth that late-night hosts dream for. But there’s a major issue: Colbert said twice that he had not seen “The Putin Interviews” yet.
That’s a major loss of points for Colbert in this instance. If you are going to go after someone and how he does his work but don’t take the time out to see it beforehand, you lose all credibility in conducting an interview.
Sure, there are many avenues you can go down when talking about Putin and the Russia investigation, and Colbert certainly stays in his lane, but if he wants to hold Stone accountable, the host should also do the due diligence before criticizing the director’s work.
Watch Colbert’s entire interview with Stone below (which is horribly edited to fit the show’s running time — let’s hope the show releases the full interview):