Speed Reads

Late Night Tackles President Trump

Stephen Colbert shakes his head at Trump's fake-history tweets, self-destructive refusal to be tamed

Stephen Colbert started Thursday's Late Show on a serious note, recounting how at least 13 people were killed when a terrorist drove a van into a crowd of people in Barcelona. "This is a heartbreaking reminder that evil is real and that the United States is not alone in fighting it," he said. And Thursday afternoon, "President Trump said the right thing" — at least at first.

"I was sincerely happy to see that kind of moral leadership from our president — for about 45 minutes," Colbert said, using his Trump-tweet voice to read the president's follow-up tweet about Gen. John Pershing's fictitious pig's-blood executions. He played Trump's recounting of the fake but gruesome tale, suggested his bed-time stories must have been terrifying to the Trump kids, imagined some other made-up history lessons Trump might tell, then read a real Pershing quote that, for some reason, Trump doesn't bring up.

Historical accuracy isn't Trump's only problem, Colbert said. So is discipline. He's doubling down on his defense of white supremacists because, according to one adviser, Trump would rather have people call him racist that say he backed down. "Oh, then let me help: You're a racist," Colbert said, courteously. "Naturally, people are asking what happened to that new chief of staff that was going to keep him in line," he said, but "some people think it's already over for John Kelly."

Colbert was incredulous, noting that the current issue of Time, dated Aug. 21, calls Kelly Trump's last hope. "Kelly's time ended before it began," he said with mock solemnity. "He's some sort of time traveler. Now he just needs to get back into his DeLorean and go back to a happier time for him, like when he was fighting in Iraq." To memorialize Kelly's brief (but ongoing in real life) tenure, The Late Show showed a pretty remarkable, tongue-in-cheek recap of "General Kelly: 17 Days of Discipline." Watch below. Peter Weber