The reference was to the host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, the news satire that has Colbert parodying a Bill O'Reilly-type cable "news and comment" show.
Remnick was explaining the thinking behind the cover, which depicted Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as a Muslim in turban and traditional dress and his wife in an Angela Davis-invoking pose with an afro and an Uzi. Then, there is the picture of Osama bin-Laden on the wall and the American flag burning in the Oval Office fireplace.
That cover drew strong criticism from the Obama campaign, among others.
Remnick pointed out it was a satire of the "lies" being told about Obama and that, while some people would be offended, good satire had a bite, adding that if the media could only publish the joke that everyone gets, there wouldn't be any Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, the latter of which, he pointed out, got to criticize right-wing pundits by playing one on TV.
Remnick also made the comparison in an interview posted at The Huffington Post, saying, "I bet there are people who watch Stephen Colbert and think he's a conservative commentator, or maybe they did at first … a lot of people when they first saw Colbert said, ‘What is this?’ What he was doing was turning things on [their] head."