"You know what? Ironically, Stephen Colbert is much more moderate than people think he is," CBS chief executive Les Moonves said Wednesday at the Milken Institute Global Conference, as recorded by the Hollywood Reporter. "He's a great social commentator, and that's sort of what we want. That's sort of what David Letterman has been."
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh sounded the alarms when CBS made the announcement.
"CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said. "No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open."
Moonves addressed Limbaugh's criticisms on Wednesday when asked if he was worried about Colbert's political views.
"If you're referring to remarks by Rush Limbaugh that we've attacked the heartland of America, I would respectfully disagree with that assessment of who Stephen Colbert is," Moonves said. "As one reporter put it, 'So, suddenly Rush is going soft on Letterman?'"
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly also expressed concern over CBS' choice.
"It'd be hard to fathom that 40 percent of Americans that describe themselves as conservative will watch Colbert," he said.