In March 2011, The Colbert Report aired an installment of “Difference Makers,” the segment in which Stephen Colbert, through the character he played on the show, satirized American “heroes” in the guise of celebrating them. Its subject this time was a lawyer who had been making headlines for his efforts to challenge the constitutionality of “ladies’ nights” at bars. “The latest giant of civil rights,” Colbert said, had been failing: His arguments had been rejected by every judge he’d brought them to, including the ones who sat on the Supreme Court. But he would not be deterred. “I’m going to fight the feminists,” the lawyer told Colbert, “until my last dollar, my last breath. And if there’s anything after death, I will fight them for eternity.” A Difference Maker, Colbert noted to the audience, never backs down. “Even alone,” he said, “Roy Den Hollander will continue to fight the good fight.”
The segment was a classic example of The Colbert Report’s sly brand of comedy. Now, though, it carries a new weight. This week, Den Hollander was named as the primary suspect in the killing of Daniel Anderl and the wounding of his father, Mark, at their home in New Jersey. The men were the son and the spouse, respectively, of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas; investigators speculate that she had been the true target of the person who entered their home on Sunday, reportedly dressed as a FedEx deliveryman. (On Monday, Den Hollander was found dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound; next to his body was a box addressed to Salas.) Judge Salas had been hearing one of Den Hollander’s latest cases; in writings, he had accused her of delaying the case. And, as Joshua Benton pointed out in The Atlantic yesterday, Den Hollander seems to have left a long trail of racist and sexist writings—some of it, recently, directed at Judge Salas.