Late Night: Stephen Colbert rips Paul Ryan for love of Ayn Rand


With Rep. Paul Ryan delivering the big keynote speech Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, Stephen Colbert decided the time was ripe to take a closer look at the philosophy behind the vice-presidential hopeful’s economic conservatism – specifically, his on-again, off-again relationship with “libertarian philosopher and lost Addams Family cousin” Ayn Rand.

In the segment, taped a few hours before Ryan took to the podium in Tampa, Fla., Colbert noted that sales of Rand’s massive tome “Atlas Shrugged” have surged since Ryan became Mitt Romney’s running mate – much as they did back in 2009, thanks to Glenn Beck.

Colbert described Ryan as a “true believer” in Rand, the founder of objectivism – such an ardent follower that, on the 100th anniversary of her birth in 2005, he cited the author as the “reason I got involved in public service.” Ryan even boasted of mandating that all his interns read “Atlas Shrugged,” a detail which Colbert found ironic, given Rand’s belief in self-interest above all else.


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“Requiring Ayn Rand for interns fits perfectly with her message that you should work for free and think exactly the way your boss tells you to,” he quipped. The influence is so complete, Colbert argued, that the Republican budget is essentially “Paul Ryan’s own work of Ayn Rand fan fiction.”

But Ryan’s ardor for Rand has dimmed since he was thrust into the national spotlight a few weeks ago. In a recent Fox News interview, he said that while he credits “Atlas Shrugged” for igniting his interest in economics, he didn’t realize Rand was also a strident atheist.

Colbert didn’t buy the claim of ignorance. In fact, he suggested that Ryan, a devout Catholic, was more likely engaging in a selective reading of Rand -- embracing her belief in free-market capitalism while ignoring the “subtle anti-religious” streak in her writing. After all, he joked, “Who could see the atheism buried in such coded language as ‘that dark incoherent passion within you which you take as the voice of God is nothing more than the corpse of your mind’?”


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Follow Meredith Blake on Twitter @MeredithBlake


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