Brow Beat

Donald Trump Just Radicalized Late-Night TV

“Ignoring [white supremacy] is just as bad as supporting it.”


There really wasn’t anything else to talk about besides Charlottesville on Monday night, if you were lucky enough to have a television show, and late-night hosts rose to the challenge. That includes unlikely suspects like the normally apolitical Jimmy Fallon, who opened with a moving, joke-free reminder that “it’s important for everyone, especially white people in this country, to speak out against” the poisonous ideologies on display in Charlottesville. Jimmy Kimmel, who has had less and less tolerance for bullshit since the health care debacle, found room for some jokes, but primarily railed against Trump, wondering aloud if the president “cut eyeholes in his bedsheets.” Stephen Colbert went with a traditional monologue, which he ended by addressing white supremacists and Trump supporters directly: “If you get to ruin khakis and polo shirts, I say red baseball caps mean you’re an asshole.” Seth Meyers had it both ways, opening with a joke-free  statement like Fallon, then circling back to pick up the jokes in his Closer Look segment on Charlottesville. He gets extra credit for painstakingly tracing the ways ignoring Trump’s white supremacist views, statements, and actions have led us to this pass. (Trevor Noah and The Daily Show picked a hell of a week to go on vacation.)

Beyond the interest in seeing how different writers rooms treated the same material—which clips they used, how they managed the humor/disgust/hope balance, and so on—what’s fascinating about Monday’s late-night lineup is how unified it was. Trump supporters who prefer The Tonight Show or Jimmy Kimmel Live! because they aren’t usually as schoolmarmish about the whole “voting for white supremacy” thing as, say, The Daily Show had nothing to watch on Monday night. Even Conan O’Brien, who seems to have passed on the chance to deliver a monologue about American racism, invited Sen. Al Franken on to tell TBS viewers about, among other things, the Cornerstone Speech. This seems like the kind of unity we’re going to need in the wake of Charlottesville, as opposed to the reassuring but false idea that Americans want the same things and we should all come together as a nation and stop talking about white supremacy. Some Americans don’t want the same things, and the rest of us have a moral responsibility to speak out. Especially those of us who host television shows. Here’s what everyone had to say on Monday:

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Even though The Tonight Show isn’t a political show, it’s my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being. What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, was just disgusting. I was watching the news like everyone else, and you’re seeing, like, Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists, and I was sick to my stomach. My daughters were in the next room playing, and I’m thinking, “How can I explain to them that there’s so much hatred in this world?” They’re two years old and four years old. They don’t know what hate is. They go to the playground and they have friends of all races and backgrounds, they just play, and they laugh, and they have fun.

But as kids grow up, they need people to look up to—to show them what’s right and good. They need parents and teachers, and they need leaders who appeal to the best in us. The fact that it took the President two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful. And I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. It’s important for everyone, especially white people in this country, to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it.

And remember, there are people who have given their lives to make sure this kind of hate doesn’t spread. They fought and died on the right side of history. One brave woman in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, died standing up for what’s right at the age of 32.

I can’t look at my beautiful, growing, curious daughters and say nothing when this kind of thing is happening. We all need to stand against what is wrong, acknowledge that racism exists, and stand up for what is right and civil and kind. And to show the next generation that we haven’t forgotten how hard people have fought for human rights, we cannot do this. We can’t go backward. We can’t go backward.

Thank you all for watching and listening. This is The Tonight Show, and we’ll be right back.

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

I am glad you’re in a good mood, because it’s another disturbing Monday in America. You know, we went into the weekend worrying about Kim Jong-Un starting a war. We came out of it wondering if our president is cutting eyeholes out of his bedsheets.

As you know, this weekend in Virginia the worst people in the United States went to the hardware store, bought Tiki torches, lit them up and marched. In Charlottesville, a non-violent protestor was killed by a white supremacist. And so the president—who is the president, by the way—went on television to say this:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence—on many sides. On many sides.

He started strong and then he had to throw in “on many sides.” “Well, let’s not lay all the blame on the Nazis and the Klan, there were people who marched against them, you know.” And then for two days he had no further comment—the one thing he decides to be quiet about is this.

And of course, everybody went nuts, because there weren’t many sides. Protestors were shouting Nazi slogans, they were carrying Nazi flags, one of them killed a young woman and injured dozens of other people with his car—there were two sides, not many sides. And one of those sides had Nazis on it. All he had to do was condemn the Nazis. It shouldn’t have been a difficult thing. It’s not exactly a controversial stance. It’s not like we asked him to come out against puppies or something. They’re Nazis and Klan members and people who put pineapple on pizza, they’re terrible people.

And it isn’t as though he doesn’t like to speak out, you know, when Donald Trump is upset, when there’s something serious happening, he doesn’t keep it bottled up, he lets us know:

Now they’re making Ghostbusters with only women? What’s going on?!

Good question, what is going on? So the reaction to this was enormous, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, called this rally evil and disgusting. And you understand what that means, that means Germany is taking a stronger stance against Nazis than we are. And they invented them.

So then, after much prayer and reflection, the president decided to take the difficult step of condemning Nazis and the Klan, which was big for him, because this is the sort of thing that could alienate his base. Even he knew he had to say something, and so after a few minutes of bragging about the economy, he did:

Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

What a difference a teleprompter makes, you know? It’s night and day. He sounds like a kid whose parents made him apologize for egging their neighbor’s house. It’s unbelievable. If there’s any silver lining to this—and there isn’t, by the way—it’s that whatever summer vacation he was hoping to have is now ruined. It has been a terrible vacation.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Boy, what a terrible weekend. White supremacists from around the country carrying shields, clubs, body armor descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, a beautiful, great American town to hold a rally they called “Unite the Right.” The rally was a clear attempt to spark violence, and it did.

One of these white supremacists drove a car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one young woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 more. In addition, two Virginia state troopers, H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who were monitoring the rally from the air, were killed when their helicopter crashed. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and it is difficult to express how heartbreaking it is to see something like this happening in our country.

But here’s one thing that’s not difficult to express. Nazis are bad. The KKK? I’m not a fan. That wasn’t hard. That was easy. I enjoyed saying it. But on Saturday, when the nation looked to our president to rebuke these hate groups, what he said was this:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence—on many sides. On many sides.

Many sides? Mr. President, this is terrorism, not your order at KFC. “I’d like the ten-piece bucket with potato wedges, fries, mashed—you know what? Many sides. Many sides. Cole slaw…”

How can you possibly say you condemn this in the strongest possible terms when you don’t even name the groups responsible or say what they did? “I strongly condemn you-know-who about you-know what, and you know what, aren’t we all Nazis if you think about it?” I have seen angrier Yelp reviews, and they weren’t afraid to use the word “Nazi” when describing how long their jalapeno poppers took.

Here’s the problem, this is the nut of what’s most disturbing about this, is that the president came out after a tragedy, and after he made his statement, reasonable people could not tell if he was condemning Nazis.

And it’s not like Trump is a shrinking violet. He’s known for criticizing things! If only the president was as mad about neo-Nazis murdering people in the streets as he’s been about Hillary Clinton, The New York Times, CNN, Joe Scarborough, Kristen Stewart, the cast of Hamilton, Diet Coke, Nordstrom not selling his daughter’s clothes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, me, the state of New Hampshire, Gold Star families, Penn Jillette’s Las Vegas show, the movie Django Unchained, Meryl Streep, and lady Ghostbusters.

And while he will not name the perpetrators, Trump was very quick to say who’s not to blame:

It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama—it’s been going on for a long, long time.

“Yeah, Obama and I both share some responsibility here. I mean, I embraced alt-right racists, Obama was black. We both contributed to the problem in our own way.” Well, after the president blew the easiest condemnation of all time, Trump took criticism from “many sides, many sides.”

But he did get praise from one group: neo-Nazis. One prominent white power website wrote, “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together, nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate … on both sides! He said he loves us all.” Careful, guys—he says he loves you now, but one day he’s gonna leave you for younger Nazis.

But of course, Nazis weren’t the only ones praising Donald Trump, so was the Klan. Like former KKK Grand Wizard and current taxidermy lizard David Duke, seen here being racially superior. Duke was at Charlottesville’s Hate-apalooza, and he said this:

We are determined to take our country back. We’re gonna fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump.

Oh, so the Klan voted for Donald Trump? Oh, that’s right, I remember they wore those special “Make America Great Again” hats. Now, faced with this absolute PR clustermunch, on Sunday, the White House released this:

The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacist, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups.

OK. Good. Finally, someone willing to stand up! Only we don’t know who that person was, because it was an unidentified White House spokesperson. Why unidentified? “Look, of course we don’t support the Nazis or the KKK. You’re not going to use my name, are you? I could get in trouble.”

Now here’s the thing. Some people didn’t need their anti-Nazi statements explained later. Like the mayor of Charlottesville, who called the rally “a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism and intolerance.” Which, coincidentally, was also the theme of Steve Bannon’s Senior Prom … under the sea!

Also, you might recall that on Friday, the white supremacists held a torch-wielding march, only they were holding Tiki torches. How lame! That’s like villagers coming after Frankenstein holding scented candles. “Aaaaaaagh, oooooh, arrrr, sandalwood vanilla baaaad. Arrrrrr.” And here’s the deal, the company that makes Tiki torches released a statement saying, quote:

Tiki brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed. Our products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friend connect with each other at home in their yard.

Yes. Give it up. I gotta say, it’s pretty troubling when a back-yard decoration company comes out swinging harder against Nazis than the President of the United States. Your move, lawn flamingos!

So, faced with getting morally dumped on by pretty much everybody, the president dug a trench, lowered the bar into it, and then slithered over it, somehow finding the courage to read a statement clearly written by somebody else:

Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

Was that so hard? Why did that take two days? “Sir, how do you feel about Nazis?” “Give me 48 hours to get back to you.”

And Trump tried to heal a news cycle by reminding us what we all have in common: “We all salute the same great flag.” No we don’t. I have seen their flags—they can’t even agree which one they’re going to salute. OK? Don’t mix us up.

Now he didn’t answer any questions there, but later he was pressed on the issue by CNN’s Jim Acosta:

ACOSTA: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?

TRUMP: They have been condemned. They have been condemned.

ACOSTA: And why are we not having a press conference today, you said on Friday there would be a press conference?

TRUMP: We had a press conference. We just had a press conference.

ACOSTA: Can we ask you some more questions, then, sir?

TRUMP: It doesn’t bother me at all, but you know, I like real news, not fake news.

Sir, you see how fast you condemned CNN, right off the top of your head, with no script? Next time, that, but with Nazis.

And here’s another thing, and I don’t know where I’m finding the courage to say this, here’s another thing I don’t like about Nazis. A lot of the Nazis showed up at the rally wearing their uniform of khakis and white polo shirts. Because nothing strikes more fear into the hearts of your enemies than cosplaying as the assistant manager of a pool-supply company. Look. Look, Nazis. You don’t get to turn khakis and white polo shirts into the official uniform of racism. What’s gonna happen to guys who actually dress like that? People like me and Jake from State Farm? Do I have to throw out all my polo shirts now? Well, two can play at that game. If you get to ruin khakis and and polo shirts, I say red baseball caps mean you’re an asshole.

Late Night With Seth Meyers

We’re so happy to have you here, and we want to get started, we want to have a fun show, but we also want to take a moment to address what happened this weekend. On Saturday, there was yet another terror attack on American soil. This one was allegedly perpetrated by a white supremacist named James Field against a group of protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia. He drove his car into a crowd and killed a woman named Heather Heyer. It was a horrifying incident that left most of the country stunned and terrified.

But on Saturday, you didn’t hear her name, or the terrorist’s name, or even the word “terrorist” from our president. What you heard instead was this.

We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence—on many sides. On many sides.

“On many sides.” If that choice of words made you feel sick to your stomach, the good news is, you’re a normal and decent person. The jury’s still out on the president, as he initially refused to condemn the white supremacist movement in this country. Now, he did read a statement at the White House today that finally struck the right tone, but I’m sorry, pencils down on this subject was Saturday evening. He only gets very partial credit.

Some ignored it or played it down when Donald Trump claimed our first black president wasn’t born in this country. It was racist and insane, but he was written off as a clown, a bitter little man who didn’t know an American could have a name like “Barack Obama.” Then he called Mexicans rapists during the speech announcing his candidacy. He called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” Then he brought Steve Bannon to the White House with him, worked to take away voting rights from black people and hammered away at the idea that Chicago was a wasteland because of the black people living there. And now white supremacists and American Nazis are visible and energetic in a way we’ve not seen in our lifetimes. Donald Trump did not immediately denounce the white supremacist movement when given the chance, and now, whether he knows it or not, many of those people see him as leading that movement.

The leader of our country is called the president because he’s supposed to preside over society. His job is to lead, to cajole, to scold, to correct our path, to lift up what is good about us and to absolutely and unequivocally and immediately condemn what is evil in us. And if he does not do that, if he does not preside over our society, then he is not a president. You can stand for a nation or you can stand for a hateful movement. You can’t do both. And if you don’t make the right choice, I am confident that the American voter will. Thank you guys.