Brow Beat

Late-Night Hosts (Mostly) Don’t Dodge the Word Racist While Talking Trump

Stephen Colbert stands in front of a graphic reading Is Donald Trump a Racist? Episode 3 Million.
Screenshot via Youtube

Trevor Noah broke out his fedora and magnifying glass on Monday night to investigate a mystery: Is Donald Trump racist? The gag was in response to yet another series of tweets written by the president, this time ranting about Rep. Elijah Cummings: “Cumming [sic] District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could clean up this very dangerous & filthy mess.” The tweetstorm came less than two weeks after Trump similarly suggested that progressive congresswomen critical of his policies “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Noah came right out and said it: “Yes, he’s racist.” Not “racially charged” or another euphemism. Racist. And other late-night hosts also frankly and straightforwardly used the word on Monday, which was refreshing—though some were slyer about its usage than others.

Seth Meyers didn’t mince words or waste time, using the word racist less than three seconds into a segment on the news story about Trump and Cummings, immediately referring to Trump’s tweets as “another racist outburst from a racist president.”

Stephen Colbert, like Noah, facetiously questioned whether Trump is racist, only to answer his own question before even digging into the latest story: “Previously on Is Donald Trump Racist? … Yes.”

Jimmy Fallon, who usually avoids touchy topics … continued to avoid touchy topics, but he did get in a dig at Trump’s racism during his monologue about Shark Week, of all things. “Actually, Trump loves Shark Week,” he joked. “It’s the one time he can tweet ‘I love great whites’ without being called a racist.” That may sound tame, given that Fallon is by no means passing judgment on Trump himself, merely observing that others have done so. It is tame, but by Fallon’s standards, that’s about as pointed as it gets.

Like Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel didn’t outright call Trump racist in his monologue, but he did throw the word around, sarcastically noting that Trump went after “yet another coincidentally non-white member of Congress” and pointing out that Trump turns accusations against him back on the accuser. “Racist? You’re a racist. I colluded? You colluded,” he said before devolving into a long-winded joke about The Wire and Hairspray in relation to the “horrible things” Trump has been saying about Baltimore.

James Corden avoided the R word altogether, though he did address the president’s spat with Al Sharpton, saying that Trump calling Sharpton a con man is “a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black—except Trump would probably use a different word besides black.” The audience laughed, but there were also some boos, which Corden seemed to chalk up to the perception of his show as apolitical. “It’s not all fun and games,” he told an audience member. “It’s not all rap battles and carpool rides.” However, it’s not clear that the boos were at all a response to the implied criticism of Trump rather than Trump himself, or perhaps just at the tastelessness of the joke.