Cheney slams Trump's "fascist playbook" on Colbert

In last night's "Late Show," Stephen Colbert and former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) discussed the threat of fascism and the responsibility of the Republican Party in America's slide toward fascism.

Colbert asked Cheney why she thought it was the Republicans who introduced fascism to America and not the Democrats. Cheney agreed that Trump is "using a fascist playbook," but argued that Trump is an "aberration" in the GOP, preying on people's patriotism and lying to them, tapping into a sense that their voices were not being heard.

Here's the exchange:

Stephen Colbert: There are left-wing dictators and right-wing dictators. Communist and socialist dictators. Then there are fascist dictators, right-wing dictators, who in the name of preserving some imagined status quo or path that needs to be returned to, will go to any lengths, trampled or killed, in order to achieve that. I'm not saying it's the purview of one party. Why do you think that for the first time in our nation's history, the Republican Party won that race and got the first fascist dictator who could possibly take office? Just curious if you've done any self-examination of your party's leadership over the last 20 years as to why he's not an aberration.

Liz Cheney: I think he's an aberration.

Stephen Colbert: Really?

Liz Cheney: I think what Donald Trump has done—First of all, he tapped into a sense among a lot of people in this country that their voice isn't heard. But he then lied to them and he preyed on their patriotism and told them, you know what, I'll speak for you.

Stephen Colbert: Very specifically through things like racism. Like Mexicans are rapists, they are killers. They are here to get us. That's a very racist ideology. Undermining of the media is a very fascist thing to do.

Liz Cheney: No question he's using a fascist playbook. But it's also true right now, if you want to talk about, for example, the disgusting anti-Semitism that is on the rise across this country, the left has a huge problem with anti-Semitism, what we are seeing on university campuses for example, the unwillingness to stand against it.

Stephen Colbert: I would agree, anti-Semitism is a disease that runs across all cultural boundaries. Not only in the United States but across the world. But what I mean by undermining the media, is undercutting sort of like roughing up the referee was a project of the right for the last 20 years.

Liz Cheney: No. You and… You say that people believe our institutions can take the punishment. But the Republican Party's mantra has been—

Liz Cheney: It's really important, in my view, that we not slide into saying everything the Republicans have ever done is somehow the same as what Donald Trump has done.

Stephen Colbert: I'm not saying everything. I'm saying there are breadcrumbs.

Liz Cheney: You and I are not going to agree on that.

Stephen Colbert: I know we're not going to agree, but do you understand why I am asking that question?

Liz Cheney: Well, you should let me answer it.

Stephen Colbert: Go ahead.

Liz Cheney: I think when I stood in front of my colleagues, for example, when they kicked me out of leadership, I said to them "we cannot become the party of anti-Semitism, white supremacy, racism, and bigotry." If you look at the people and the symbolism of the people who invaded the Capitol on January 6th, they had neo-Nazi insignia. The Confederate flag flew for the first time inside the Capitol on that day. The Republican Party, maybe what we should see as we could debate about how we got to this point. I think the Republican Party has people who've been in the party have a particular duty to stand against where we are today. And I also think we all have to recognize he's using a fascist playbook. I don't disagree with what you're saying. He's taking the same steps that we've seen people all around the world take in the past. The challenge for us as Americans is not seeing ourselves as, 'Well, that could never happen here.' The people who are claiming that he's going to unravel the Constitution if he's elected again are catastrophizing. We can't go down that path. We have to understand it's a very real threat. There's a lot of time for us to debate how we got to this place, but right now, we have to stand together as Americans to stop it. That's the most important thing.

Stephen Colbert: I completely agree. I completely agree and I think that's one of the reasons why you are perceived with such courage, even by the people who don't agree with the policies you voted for. You voted with the President 90% of the time. But now, when it counts for the future of our country and the possibility of us having a free and open, small "l" liberal society, that you're doing the right thing. I'm not saying that the Republican Party is somehow irredeemable—it might be—the reason I'm asking. Maybe now is not the time to ask the question, but I think there will have to be a time to ask the question. Because the Democrats or liberals have every opportunity to have their own demagogue. Why did you guys get there first?

Liz Cheney: Look. Certainly, I wish this weren't the case. There's no question. But I also think it's really important that we not get into a situation where we act as though or think or talk about, suggest that Donald Trump and the threat he poses is anything other than existential and unique in our history. Because it certainly is.