Brow Beat

Colbert: Trump Is “Suspiciously Worried That Racist Presidents Don’t Get Statues Anymore”

We’re in our second day of an Edward R. Murrow-off between late night hosts, and it’s making everyone very aware of what time various shows are shot. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was already taping when Trump gave his most offensive press conference yet—until the next one, anyway—but Jimmy Kimmel, helped by West coast time zones, had time to write an earnest appeal to Trump voters in light of the fact that the president is even more Nazi-curious than we already knew. Seth Meyers threw together a short “Breaking Crazy” piece and will probably circle back tomorrow. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert was right on the bubble, as writer Ariel Dumas tweeted:

Thirty minutes isn’t very much time to write what ended up being a twelve-minute speech; for non-stenographers, it’s not even enough time to transcribe it. But Colbert and his writers room somehow pulled it off, and in Tuesday night’s blistering monologue, he once again laid out a compelling case that the president is unfit for office. While Colbert didn’t go quite as far as Kimmel or Meyers, both of who were openly calling for Trump to leave or be removed, he did express doubt that Trump would be president by Friday without specifying how that might come to pass. Even without any details, that seems like a much faster timetable than Kimmel’s complicated scheme to name Trump King of America, then lock him up in his castle and throw away the key forever. The sooner the better, obviously, but if Stephen Colbert thinks he can sell America on promises of improbably quick results without having any underlying plan to achieve them, he’s … pretty astute, actually. Friday it is!

Here’s a complete transcript:

We got a big show for you tonight. Welcome to The Late Show, I’m your host Stephen Colbert. Now, big day here in the Big Apple. Donald Trump has come back to New York, and New Yorkers were really happy to see him:

Protestors Chanting: New York hates you! New York hates you!

Now, to be fair, that is a standard New York greeting. You might remember it took Donald Trump two days to condemn the white nationalists and the neo-Nazis who held that rally down in Charlottesville. That’s why, that’s why…

Audience: Boooooo!

I know the feeling. Now that’s why I sent him this card: “Happy Belated K-K-Kondemnation! I can’t believe we did Nazi you condemn them sooner.” Fresh ink. That’s fresh ink.

But even though many criticized how long it took, the president knew the right thing was to make a statement on Monday, be clear on who was to blame, and then move on to the people’s business.

I’m just kidding. He held a press conference today in, I believe, the seventh circle of hell? Here’s what he said when asked why he waited two days to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville:

Trump: When I make a statement, I like to be correct … Before I make a statement, I like to know the facts. … Before I make a statement, I need the facts.

“Okay? I wait for the facts, okay? Just ask millions of illegal voters who refused to look for Obama’s birth certificate during my record-breaking inauguration, okay? It’s all on the Obama wiretaps. It’s all there. That’s what I’m, that’s what I’m …” And he was still very angry about how the press covered his initial statement on Saturday:

Trump: If the press were not fake, and if it was honest, the press would said what I said was very nice.

And if you were a better president, you would have said something very nice. But you’re not. Hypotheticals are fun! Who knows! If wishes and buts were clusters of nuts, we’d all have a bowl of granola. And when the president was asked about his embattled strategist Steve Bannon, he gave him this vote of … something?

Trump: I like him. He’s a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that.

If the third thing—if the third thing that someone says about you, unprompted, is, “He’s not a racist?” you’ve got a problem. “Oh, you’d love Jeff! He’s nice, he’s good looking, not a necrophiliac, I can tell you that. But—just take a cold bath, lie still—but it kept coming back to Charlottesville. And once again, Donald Trump wasn’t fully sure whether the Nazis should get all the blame:

Trump: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other. … But there is another side. … I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.

The only thing I’m doubting right now is whether you’re going to be president on Friday. Because what the hell are you talking about? “You know, one side hates minorities, the other side hates people who hate minorities. Okay? Two sides. All right? It’d just like D-Day. Remember D-Day? Two sides. Allies and the Nazis. There was a lot of violence on both sides, okay? Ruined a beautiful beach. Coulda been a golf course. Coulda been a great sand trap.”

And when reporters asked the president about the white supremacist alt-right, Trump quickly turned the tables:

Trump: What about the alt-left, that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

First of all, sir, the opposite of alt-right isn’t the alt-left, it’s the “not-Nazis.” But he was quick to point out that not everybody in the crowd were neo-Nazis:

Trump: All of those people—excuse me—I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists.

That’s right, some of them were anti-Semites. It was very diverse. Then Trump challenged the media to be fair:

Trump: Take a look the night before. They were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. … Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.

Okay, uh, the night before, let’s take a look at the night before. Yep! Just your average, friendly, civic-minded, torch-wielding mob! You know, probably holding the torches so that everyone could see them point out all the good people there. “There’s one! There’s one over there. There’s a good guy. Look at that guy right there! He’s a good one. Hey!”

Trump also pointed out that not honoring the Confederacy is a slippery slope:

Trump: This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, “Where does it stop?”

Okay, self, where does it stop? I’m gonna say it stops at the people who tried to destroy the country that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson founded. But I’m just spitballing! I’m just—that’s just me!

Jon Batiste: I think you got it!

Colbert: No, I don’t know. Let’s be fair, Jon. You gotta be fair.

Batiste: No, that’s pretty fair.

Colbert: Then, Trump continued to attack, and I can’t believe I’m saying this: George Washington:

Trump: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington lose his status, are we going to take down—excuse me—are we gonna take down statues of George Washington?

Spoken like a guy who’s suspiciously worried that racist presidents don’t get statues anymore. “Do I get one?” And George Washington wasn’t the only founding father Trump could name:

Trump: How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?

Reporter: I do love Thomas Jefferson.

Trump: Okay, good. Are we gonna take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner.

Oh, yeah, major slave owner, easily in the top five slave owners. It goes Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Jabba the Hutt, Ivanka’s clothing line, there are a lot of them. I think, I’m not—I think so. I think so. If I’m wrong, I’m joking, obviously. And he had more to say about Jefferson:

Trump: He was a major slave owner. Now are we gonna take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture …

Yes, down a statue is totally changing history. Because the main way anybody learns about history is through statue-based study. That’s how we know that Abraham Lincoln was 20 feet tall and loved sitting down. That’s really all he did. That’s all he was known for. That’s why I like him! That’s why I like him. And Trump—oh, Lord, help our country—Trump had this defense of the white nationalists protesting in Charlottesville:

Trump: I don’t know if you know: They had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.

You—no, wait, no, come on, folks—you gotta give it to the Nazis: They always do their paperwork. Okay? Very punctual, also very punctual. But Trump also reminded us about the true source of racism in this country: Barack Obama.

Reporter: … about race relations in America, do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?

Trump: I think they’ve gotten better or the same—look. They’ve been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that.

“Yeah, it was a mess. Back then, I remember there was one super-racist guy who kept questioning if Obama was even born here. It was a terrible time. It’s just wrong.” But Trump proved he had a personal investment in Charlottesville. Literally.

Trump: I own one of the biggest wineries in the United States, it’s in Charlottesville.

It is not one of the biggest wineries in the United States, though he is one of the biggest whiners in the United States. He’s up there.

Now remember last week—was it just last week?—last week we all thought that General Kelly was going to bring some order to the Trump administration. Doesn’t that feel quaint now? “Yeah, sure, there’s a bull in the china shop, but we’ll be fine! We just hired a new china shop manager.”  Well, General Kelly was there to witness the whole thing—seen here overwhelmed with pride—this guy is a four-star general. “Iraq? No problem. Afghanistan? We can do it! Twenty-minute Trump press conference? A quagmire from which our country will never emerge. What do we do? What do we do? I don’t …”

And here’s the thing, everybody—it did not get great reviews. It did not get great reviews. David Duke liked it. Pretty much nobody else liked this press conference. And his staff was very quick to throw the president under the bus. They were in damage control immediately, with one aide telling reporters, “That was all him—this wasn’t our plan.” Ow. Yeah, ours either.

But they’re right, it wasn’t their plan. And we know this for a fact, and this is absolutely true, because their plan was a brief written statement, and we got an actual glimpse of it when Trump pulled it out of his pocket. And it says—can we zoom in—it says, “y, ‘We strongest … his egregious … bigotry, and … no place in.”

Now, Trump never read this statement. But The Late Show’s computer forensic lab has enhanced, has enhanced the image, has managed to reconstruct the other half of the page. It reads:

Hello, everyone. Today we are going to see me give the strongest argument for my impeachment yet. “His egregious ramblings were nothing but bigotry and nonsense,” you’ll say after I finish. “He has no place in the White House.”

That’s actually—that’s what he was going to say. It’s what he was going to say. He shoulda just stuck with the plan. That’s actually much more coherent than what he actually said.