The Tonight Show, The Late Show, and Late Night will suspend production for two weeks due to the spreading coronavirus pandemic, NBC and CBS announced Thursday evening. All the national late-night shows were planning to start taping without a studio audience on Monday, but Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers learned Thursday that their Thursday shows were going to be audience-less, too. Their shows went on, loosely.
"We're just kind of winging it — this is rehearsal right now," Colbert said to his mostly empty theater. He noted that "because of the coronavirus, all of Broadway was shutting down tonight," too, and yelled at the coronavirus for infecting Tom Hanks, in "a bummer of a sequel to Catch Me if You Can."
"Last night, Donald Trump pre-empted all programming to address a worried nation — and remind them, he's the thing they should really worry about," Colbert said. Wall Street immediately "freaked out" about Trump's phantom trade ban, but "Trump's body language" must've added to the panic. "He had a rakish flair that could only be described as stark terror," he pantomimed, and "it's not very reassuring when the guy telling us to stay calm about a respiratory virus loses his breath in the middle of a two-syllable word."
"Like you, I'm watching the news and I'm just as confused and freaked out as you are — I know that speech last night didn't help," Fallon told the empty theater, reading his monologue from index cards as The Roots kept things pleasantly madcap. Trump's Oval Office address "was a nice change from his usual speeches, right next to a helicopter," Fallon joked. But "the last time Trump spoke from the Oval Office it was about his plans to build his border wall — which means in two years, the coronavirus should be about 10 percent taken care of."
"We had written a Closer Look last night" and it's still relevant, explained Seth Meyers, dressed in shirtsleeves, so they added it to Thursday's last-minute rerun. He called America's current mood "very surreal and weird," with the media and public health experts struggling "to convey the severity of what's happening without sounding hysterical" and Trump addressing the nation minutes after Sarah Palin rapped to Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" dressed in a bear costume. Trump's speech should have focused on "massively ramping up testing, surging the capacity of our health care system, and taking care of the millions of vulnerable Americans who are about to face personal and economic hardships because of this pandemic," Meyers said. Instead, he's moving ahead with his "truly sadistic plan" to kick 700,000 Americans off food stamps.
The Daily Show's Trevor Noah, going audience-less Monday, sang a wistful farewell song for Thursday's crowd. Peter Weber
When President Biden moved into the White House on Wednesday, he probably left his Peloton exercise bike in Wilmington. With its cameras, microphones, and internet connection, "the last thing the CIA wants is the Russians and the Chinese peering or listening into the White House gymnasium," The New York Times notes. The exercise bikes also cost "upward of $2,500 apiece," the Times added, so it "does not exactly comport with Mr. Biden's 'regular guy from Scranton' political persona."
Stephen Colbert made fun of the Peloton security fears on Thursday's Late Show.
The Daily Show picked up on the widely mocked critique that Peloton is an elite symbol out of step with Biden's "Working Class Joe" image. The Peloton, in fact, was "scandal" No. 5 from the first day of Biden's presidency, according to The Daily Show's recap of Fox News' inauguration coverage.
Late night comedians have to make the mental transition from all of Donald Trump's presidential scandals — and also do something with their four years of Trump footage. At Jimmy Kimmel Live, Rufus Wainwright sang just about every saucy nickname for Trump that Kimmel has used on his show, with visual aids. It took more than 2 minutes, including a lightning round.
And The Daily Show raided its video vault so Desi Lydic could recap four years of former first lady Melania Trump, "the nation's stepmom, there for America every other weekend and on holidays," especially Christmas.
Lydic also reminded everyone about the mysterious case of "Jarvanka," Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber
When President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, there was no chief usher to greet them. He had been fired at about 11:30 a.m., half an hour before Biden was sworn in as president, The New York Times reports. Former first lady Melania Trump had hired the chief usher, Timothy Harleth, from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, after the previous chief usher, Angella Reid, was dismissed a few months into Donald Trump's term.
The White House chief usher is in charge of the first family's residence, overseeing everything from personnel issues to budgets. It is typically an apolitical job, and ushers typically stay through several administrations. Reid, hired in 2011, was only the ninth chief usher since 1885, though she was the first woman hired for the job. The Bidens had communicated to the White House counsel that they intended to bring in their own chief usher, a person familiar with the process told the Times. A Biden White House official told CNN that Harleth "was let go before the Bidens arrived," though CNN reports it was the Bidens who gave him the ax.
Harleth was already in hot water with Trump's team, though. He "had found himself in an untenable position" since the election, "trying to begin preparations for a new resident in the White House, even as its occupant refused to concede that he would be leaving the premises," the Times reports. And Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was "unhappy" with Harleth "for trying to send briefing books about the residence to the Biden transition team in November." Harleth "had worked with Jill Biden's staff for weeks to organize the move of household belongings," The Washington Post adds.
The absence of a chief usher was one manifestation of the chaotic transition period, but it doesn't entirely explain the curious breach in protocol where nobody opened the doors for the BIdens when they arrived at the White House, the Times notes. The doors, which awkwardly stood closed for about 10 long seconds as the Bidens watched, are typically opened by Marine guards.
Once the Bidens passed through the doors into the newly sanitized White House, things got better, the Post reports. "Awaiting Biden in a room adjacent to the Oval Office were two trays stacked with chocolate chip cookies, each one in plastic wrap with a gold presidential seal." Peter Weber
With the help of Slater, Screech, and Kelly Kapowski, the Lincoln Project has found a way to turn nine seconds of a Saved by the Bell episode into a roast of multiple Republican lawmakers.
Quick '90s TV history lesson: In the classic Saved by the Bell episode "There's No Hope with Dope," teen idol Johnny Dakota came to Bayside High to film an anti-drug PSA. The gang was so excited to film it with him, but once they found out Johnny was a secret stoner, they dropped him like a ton of Zack Morris' 10-pound brick phones. They ended up doing the PSA with NBC President Brandon Tartikoff, warning kids about the dangers of drugs.
Now, that PSA has been repurposed by the Lincoln Project for a mashup that might make Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wish they could disappear like Tori did at the end of Season 4. Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia
Over the course of three days in early January, volunteers making their way down the Tennessee River in a 25-foot aluminum boat were able to remove more than 9,000 pounds of trash from the water.
It wasn't the first time the volunteers — staffers from the Johnsonville State Historic Park and members of the group Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful — cleaned the 652-mile river; in October, they pulled out 4,811 pounds of garbage.
Kathleen Gibi, executive director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, said it is up to "local partners and individuals who are eager about taking ownership to protect and improve their beautiful river community."
The Tennessee River has an extraordinarily high amount of microplastics in it, and every cleanup is a step in the right direction. The volunteers are already planning their next event in April, and set a goal to remove at least 100,000 pounds of trash from the river by the end of 2021. Catherine Garcia
Among the first 17 executive orders President Biden signed Wednesday evening was one hitting "pause" on construction of former President Donald Trump's border wall. "It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall," Biden's order said. "I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall."
Biden gave the Pentagon and Homeland Security departments up to a week to stop all border construction, and for the most part, the frantic wall-building Trump had unleashed in his last months in office had stopped by Thursday, The Associated Press reports. The Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it told its contractors to stop installing any additional barriers and do only what's "necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work."
Biden gave his administration 60 days to find and review all current contracts and determine which can be canceled, which must be renegotiated, and whether any of the remaining money can be used on other projects. Trump, as of Jan. 15, had spent $6.1 billion of the $10.8 billion in wall construction it had contracted out, a Senate Democratic aide told AP. Overall, the Trump administration had secured $16.45 billion for the wall, including $5.8 billion appropriated by Congress and the rest seized from the Treasury and Defense departments. Biden is targeting that latter pot of money.
Trump says he built 450 miles of his wall, though almost all of that was replacement for other barriers. His administration signed contracts for constructing 664 miles, the Senate aide told AP. "Trump said the border wall would be 'virtually impenetrable' and paid for by Mexico, which never happened," AP notes. "While the wall is much more formidable than the barriers it replaced, it isn't uncommon for smugglers to guide people over or through it. Portions can be sawed with power tools sold at home improvement stores." Peter Weber
To combat rising anti-Semitism, the Austrian government has introduced measures to educate the country about Judaism, protect synagogues, and impose harsher punishments for hate crimes.
Karoline Edstadler, Austria's minister for the European Union, said the government is working to combat anti-Semitism of all forms, whether it is online in a message board comment or announced during a public protest. In 2019, there were 550 recorded anti-Semitic incidents in Austria, Edstadler said, and "that is twice as much as five years ago."
Oskar Deutsch is president of Vienna's Jewish community, and he told The Associated Press when there is discrimination, "Jews are always the first one who are affected." He said it's up to everyone in Austria, not just Jewish people, to fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate. Catherine Garcia
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) set off a metal detector on Thursday as he tried to enter the House chamber while carrying a gun, HuffPost reports.
Reporter Matt Fuller witnessed Harris set off the metal detector and then stand as an officer used a wand to scan him. It was then discovered that Harris' suit coat was concealing a firearm. Harris was refused entrance to the Chamber, Fuller reports, and he asked Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) to take the gun so he could go onto the House floor for a vote. Katko responded that he didn't have "a license" and would not take the weapon, Fuller said.
Speaking to other lawmakers near him, Harris complained that he asked his staff to remind him about the metal detectors, and they had failed to do so, Fuller reports. Harris left, and upon his return 10 minutes later, he did not set off the metal detector. A Capitol Police spokesperson told Fuller the situation is under investigation.
The metal detectors were installed after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Several Republican lawmakers have tried to go around the metal detectors to avoid being scanned, and on Thursday, Fuller said he saw Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) refuse to be wanded down after setting off the metal detectors. Boebert earlier boasted that she will always have her gun on her while in D.C.
Members of the House are not permitted to carry firearms onto the floor, and Fuller tweeted that a person "who would have a good sense of this situation" told him there are "a lot more members than we think who go to the floor armed." Catherine Garcia