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Stephen Colbert walks back Kate Middleton jokes: Don't 'make light of somebody else's tragedy'

Left, Stephen Colbert poses for a Red Carpet portrait at the 75th Emmy Awards on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. Right, Britain's Kate, Duchess of Cambridge poses for photographers at The Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony, in London, Oct. 17, 2021. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images, AP Photo/Scott Garfitt, File)
"The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert expressed remorse for making light of the princess of Wales' personal life before he learned that she has cancer. (Associated Press)

Stephen Colbert got serious Monday night on "The Late Show" while reflecting on his recent jokes about Catherine, Princess of Wales, in light of her recent cancer diagnosis.

The CBS host recognized that his pre-disclosure barbs didn't sit well with some viewers, and the 10-time Emmy winner explained that, in retrospect, they also did not adhere to his own comedy standards.

Read more: 'The View' hosts fell down the Kate Middleton 'rabbit hole' too. Now they feel awful

"I don't know if you have noticed but we do a lot of shows. And I tell a lot of jokes and I tell jokes about a lot of different things, mostly about what everybody's talking about. And for the last six weeks, two months, everybody has been talking about the mystery of Kate Middleton's disappearance from public life," Colbert said while seated behind his late-night desk. It was his first show since Catherine's sobering disclosure.

"Two weeks ago, we did some jokes about that mystery and all the attendant froo-frah in the reporting about that. When I made those jokes, that upset some people, even before her diagnosis was revealed, and I can understand that," he said. "I mean, a lot of my jokes have upset people in the past, and I'm sure some of my jokes will upset people in the future. But there’s a standard that I try to hold myself to, and that is I do not make light of somebody else’s tragedy."

Read more: Don't blame the public for failing Kate Middleton. Blame the palace

The former "Daily Show" star said that he didn't know if the princess' diagnosis "is a tragic one" but assumed that she's "getting the best possible medical care" since she is expected to be queen consort of England in the future.

"But regardless of what it is, I know that any cancer diagnosis of any kind is harrowing for the patient and for their family," he said, adding, "Though I'm sure they don't need it from me, I and everyone here at 'The Late Show' would like to extend our well wishes and heartfelt hope that her recovery is swift and thorough."

The host was among those who ran with unsubstantiated rumors that Prince William — Catherine's husband and the heir apparent to the British throne — allegedly had an affair years ago and that it somehow related to Catherine's retreat from public life. As Kensington Palace contended with the credibility blow stemming from its release of a doctored photo of the princess and her three children, Colbert also trolled Rose Hanbury, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, 40, and the prince of Wales, 41, about those 2019 rumors in a March 12 monologue, which took the dated gossip mainstream.

Hanbury's lawyers reportedly reached out to CBS and other media outlets regarding the allegations and to reiterate that they are "false," Vanity Fair reported. (Representatives for "The Late Show" did not respond to The Times' request for confirmation.)

Read more: Opinion: The Princess of Wales' public honesty is appreciated but it wasn't necessary

But after Catherine revealed Friday that she was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer that was found after abdominal surgery and is undergoing preventive chemotherapy, droves of royals watchers walked back some of their biting and irreverent commentary about her and the royal family.

On Monday, the panelists of "The View" also shared their regrets about falling down "the rabbit hole" after the palace announced Kate's surgery in January. British journalist Owen Jones and actor Blake Lively also expressed remorse for piling on.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.