Stephen Colbert on his reaction to the Charleston church massacre

Comedian Stephen Colbert, the host of "The Late Show," grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and he told "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson in a recent interview about how he reacted to the shooting at an historic black church in his hometown in June that left nine people dead.

"Terrible things happen in somebody else's community," he explained. "And if you pay attention to the news, which I assume a fair amount of your viewers do, it always feels like, 'Oh I feel terrible for those people.' That's what thoughts and prayers are about. It's like, 'Can I somehow, anyway, can I share that burden of grief with somebody.'"


"And then it happens in your own hometown, just, you know, a block and half from your own family - that's really close to where my own family lived - and you start looking at the news totally differently," he continued. "And you don't really want to learn about it from the news so that's why I had to go down there to experience it firsthand because I didn't want to get it abstracted through the news cycle."

The shooter was an apparent white supremacist who's said he was trying to inflame racial hatred, but Colbert said he was "deeply moved" by the unity and love he saw when he visited Charleston in the wake of the shootings.

"I went down to Charleston after the attack down there, and I was deeply moved by the reaction of my hometown, and horrified that that would happen anywhere, but certainly in a place that I knew well, and very proud of the unity and the love that I saw down there."

Colbert said he was particularly affected by the forgiveness the victims' families expressed to the shooter when they had an opportunity to confront him at a bond hearing.

"The forgiveness that they showed, or the act of forgiveness that they expressed towards the attacker, was unbelievably humbling," he explained. "And you know, even in a year that had this kind of sadness, maybe that's the thing that I would want to take from it, is to know that acceptance and forgiveness is the only way out of tragedy."