In an impromptu news conference, "President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations," The New York Times reports, "equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend." The word "unprecedented" has been used a lot with Trump during his short presidency, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman write, "but members of the president's staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private."
That's the "straight" news. On late-night TV, the topical comedians who were unimpressed with Trump's first stab at criticizing Nazis were deeply disquieted about Tuesday's followup act.
Trump's press conference "can only be described as clinically insane," Seth Meyers said on Tuesday's Late Night. "You know that list of side effects at the end of a pharmaceutical ad? He apparently has all of them." He played some clips and shook his head. "Normally when someone is talking that level of crazy, Batman crashes through the ceiling and punches him." And Meyers wasn't the only one with a worried face — there was also White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, pictured on the sidelines. "Look at that guy," he said. "Trump is so fully out of his mind, he broke a general. That guy's been in wars."
On Tuesday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert laughed darkly at Trump's explanation for why he waited two days to condemn neo-Nazis, slipping into his Trump voice: "I wait for the facts, okay? Just ask the 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." He noted that Trump also gave "vote of... something" to Stephen Bannon, saying, unprompted, that he isn't a racist. But it kept coming back to Charlottesville, Colbert said, "and once again, Donald Trump wasn't fully sure whether the Nazis should get all the blame." Trump told the gathered reporters that they also don't really doubt that the left was as responsible for the violence as the alt-right, but "the only thing I'm doubting right now is whether you're still going to be president by Friday," Colbert said, "because what the hell are you talking about?"
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) August 16, 2017
"You know, everybody's been asking, you think Trump's gonna last four years?" Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "I'm wondering now if any of us are going to last four years." Kimmel had the longest and most thought-out response, maybe because he tapes on West Coast time, and he also offered a solution of sorts. But first, he gaped at the "all manner of stupid" that came out of Trump's mouth, adding, "I'm not joking when I say I would feel more comfortable if Cersei Lannister was running this country at this point."
"I feel like I can say this with reasonable certainty: the president is completely unhinged," Kimmel said. He urged people to watch the entire "astonishing" press conference online, since the clips just don't do it justice, but gave his overall impression: "The only thing I can compare it to is, remember when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear off, and then he bit his other ear off? This was the presidential equivalent of that." Trump blamed the alt-left, Kimmel said. "I think we might need an alt-president right now."
Along with pinning the blame on "both sides," Kimmel said, Trump also said there were "very fine people" on both sides of the Charlottesville melee. He just wasn't buying it, and he showed a clip from Friday night's march to explain why. "So here's the thing. If you're with a group of people and they're chanting things like 'Jews will not replace us!' and you don't immediately leave that group, you are not a 'very fine person.'"
Then Kimmel tried to de-escalate. "I've been thinking about this, and I really want to speak to those of you who voted for Donald Trump," he said. "And first of all, I want to say: I get it, I actually do. You were unhappy with the way things are going, you wanted someone to come in and shake things up, you didn't want business as usual," and Trump wasn't that. After listing Trump's politically appealing qualities and his unexpected, heady triumphs, he listed some of the increasingly bonkers things Trump has said and done in office.
"He is, by every reasonable account — and I'm using his own words here — he is a total disaster," Kimmel said. "He screws up royally every day, sometimes two or three times a day." But most Trump voters, he said, have "been trying to ignore it because you don't want to admit to these smug, annoying liberals that they were right. That's the last thing that you want to do, but the truth is, deep down inside you know you made a mistake, you know you picked the wrong guy, and it isn't getting better, it's getting worse."
"So you can do one of two things," Kimmel said: "You can dig in like Chris Christie at a HomeTown Buffet, or you could treat the situation like you would if you'd put Star Wars wallpaper up in the kitchen — 'All right, I got caught up, I was excited, I made a mistake, and now it needs to go.' Well, now he does need to go, so it's time for — especially you who voted for him, to tell him to go. Please, think about it." Still, Trump won't quit, and he probably won't be impeached, but Kimmel had a plan to do what Trump would if he were in America's shoes: negotiate. "Instead of president, we make Donald Trump king," he said, laying out his plan. "Let's make American Great Britain again." Well, it's an idea.