News & Politics

Stephen Colbert’s Nemesis Says “Late Show” Is an Opportunity for DC

Eleanor Holmes Norton says David Letterman’s newly appointed successor has done a lot for the statehood fight.

Photograph by Helga Esteb via Shutterstock.

Stephen Colbert’s appointment as David Letterman’s successor on CBS’s The Late Show has many people buzzing about the future of late-night television. But one of the people most excited about the announcement is the woman Colbert describes as his nemesis: Eleanor Holmes Norton.

“I hope he gives us credit for this promotion,” says Norton, who as DC’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives has made several appearances on The Colbert Report to defend the District’s status against Colbert’s barbs.

The relationship began in 2006 when Norton appeared in Colbert’s Congress-hopping feature, “Better Know a District.” Colbert, in character, suggested to Norton that the District of Columbia, with its lack of statehood and voting members of Congress, is not technically part of the United States.

Norton’s viciously deadpan responses made the segment an instant hit, one Norton says heightened DC’s struggle for autonomy and statehood.

“Our greatest frustration is that most Americans do not know we do not have the same rights they have,” Norton tells Washingtonian. “So, Colbert became the closest thing to going national on DC’s unequal status.” Norton also gave a 30-minute floor speech today on DC’s struggle for equality with the states, one of several things she’s doing ahead of Emancipation Day on April 16, the anniversary of the day in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln freed the District’s enslaved African-Americans.

Norton is also quick to remind everyone that the South Carolina-raised Colbert was actually born in DC. She also says that tourists roaming the Hill stop to have their pictures taken at her office because of her Colbert Report appearances.

In a statement today, Colbert says he’ll be dropping the dumb-anchorman character he plays on The Colbert Report when he takes over Letterman’s desk next year. Norton doesn’t think his shtick will change that much, though.

“I don’t think he’s going to change one iota,” she says. Setting aside her comedy-critic hat, Norton sees Colbert’s move from basic cable to a major network as a chance for more segments about statehood and voting rights.

“We have to regard it as an opportunity,” she says.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.