President Voldemort? Stephen Colbert has stopped saying Trump’s name

New York, New York – When the chaotic tenure of Donald Trump as president of the United States ends on Wednesday (according to custom, law and belief), what will also pass is a small, intriguing, almost silent protest against him that’s been carried out over the public airwaves.

Stephen Colbert now refuses to say the current president's name on The Late Show.
Stephen Colbert now refuses to say the current president's name on The Late Show.  © imago images / ZUMA Wire

Since the week after the November 3 presidential election, CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert has stopped saying, or having his show’s graphics print, the president’s name.

Turning Trump into Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter series — He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named — has been a fairly simple matter and one accomplished without fanfare. There was no formal announcement of this shift in policy, just the shift.

And Colbert, apparently beginning with his show of November 12, now says “the president” or, at least once, “our current president” when he mentions Trump in a monologue. And if his accompanying graphic references a news story, the headline will be changed to “T****,” like a veiled reference to an expletive.

Across America, refusing to speak the 45th president’s name was a fairly common protest against the former reality TV star’s actions and legitimacy during the past four years. But for one of the late-night network shows to do so, when so much of the shows’ comedy has depended on satirizing the president, is notable.

Notable, but perhaps not surprising. Colbert has made no secret of his view — seemingly the most deeply felt among all the late-night hosts — of Trump as dangerous, childish, and entirely unfit for his office. He has been especially pointed since the election of Joe Biden as president as Trump and associates asserted without evidence that the election was illegitimate, actions that led to the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

Most of the advice you can find online about good conversation and person-to-person connection tells people to use others’ names. To not do so, the advice goes, is dehumanizing.

Fittingly for a mostly silent protest, The Late Show would not comment on the matter. But the meaning is clear: For Colbert to remove the man’s name from his show’s postelection discourse plays as one last twist of the stiletto and a quietly profound way to usher him off the presidential stage.

Cover photo: imago images / ZUMA Wire

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