Late Night Tackles Racism
June 2, 2020

"Well, we're back after 10 days off," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show, and the story that "has pushed 100,000 COVID deaths below the fold is America's pre-existing condition, racism," specifically "the extrajudicial execution of a man named George Floyd, face-down in a street in Minneapolis." Protests have broken out in dozens of U.S. cities, plus London, Toronto, and Berlin, he said. "You know it's bad when Germany thinks your country's racist. That's like Jamaica telling you to put down the bong."

"In times like these, we need empathetic and moral leadership," Colbert said. "Unfortunately we have Donald Trump." In a pugilistic call with governors Monday, Trump acted "the big tough guy," but "on Friday, as protests raged nearby, Trump took shelter in the White House bunker."

"America is now officially BYOP — bring your own president," Colbert said. Just as with the coronavirus, Trump has abdicated all responsibility, so once more, Americans have to do the right thing on their own, and "not only is addressing systemic racial and economic injustice the right thing to do, it is the safest, most conservative, most self-protecting, most self-serving thing to do. Contents under pressure will eventually explode — and that's not a threat, that's a law of nature."

Trump is sounding "like a cross between a brutal military dictator and a racist grandpa shuffling around the nursing home with his robe on backwards," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. But when he and Fox News host Tucker Carlson yell for "law and order," they mean "an 'order' that only serves them. They insist that communities of color politely and obediently request change from a system that systematically ignores, dehumanizes, and disenfranchises them."

"Our national crisis is that a large and vital community in our country is in real pain — pain because they do not feel safe, or dignified, or seen, and most importantly of all, they do not feel heard," Conan O'Brien said. "It is taking too goddamned long" to heal America's grievous wound of racism, he said, and if we "can really listen, maybe we can find out why."

Late Night's Amber Ruffin talked about her encounters with police and how common they are among black Americans.

"Each story seems unrelated," but they are dominoes that fall together, The Daily Show's Trevor Noah said over the weekend, linking George Floyd, Amy Cooper, the coronavirus pandemic, and the looting. He explained why some black looters might break the one-sided social contract, and said it isn't "extreme" to say "police in American are looting black bodies." Listen below. Peter Weber

June 4, 2019

Stephen Colbert enjoys interviewing people but also likes watching interviews, he said on Monday's Late Show. "Well, there was a really interesting interview this weekend with presidential son-in-law and Victorian ghost-boy Jared Kushner." Colbert started off with Kushner half-fielding Axios reporter Jonathan Swan's question on whether President Trump is a racist. Kushner said no, adding, "You can't not be a racist for 69 years then run for president and be a racist."

Colbert kind of agreed: "He's right, you don't just become a racist at 69 years old. But Trump was 67 when he called all Mexicans murderers and rapists, 43 when he campaigned for death sentences for the Central Park 5, and a boyish 27 when the DOJ sued him and his father for racist housing policies." When Swan asked about Trump's birtherism, "Jared's brain went to its panic room," he said, showing the clip. "Wow, Jared has not been taken to the woodshed like that since he was carved by Geppetto."

Kushner said he thinks Trump's legacy will be bringing people into government "who are not 'qualified' by conventional standards." Colbert laughed at Kushner's air quotes: "Fun fact: Not 'qualified' by 'conventional standards' is actually the first line of Jared's résumé. I'm joking, of course — he doesn't have a résumé."

"Despite his important role in the administration, Kushner rarely does on-camera interviews," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show, and now we know why. He explained some shortcomings of Kushner's first-hand theory of racism, but he found it kind of "refreshing that Jared didn't just lie, like Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders would. Because you know if one of them got asked that question, they would be like, 'No, Trump wasn't racist for birtherism — Obama was racist for being born in Kenya.' But seriously, how is Jared so bad at lying? He's around Trump all the time. You would think that he would practice." Watch below. Peter Weber

February 7, 2019

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) "has been clinging to his job since it came out that his med-school yearbook page featured a photo of a man in blackface next to a man in a Klan robe," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Apparently Gov. Northam saw the movie BlacKKKlansman and thought, 'Hey, that's two good costumes.'" Northam said he wasn't in the photo but did once put on blackface to moonwalk. "Never a good sign when there's a story about you and Michael Jackson, and you're the creepy one," Colbert joked.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) "is embroiled in a sexual assault scandal," Colbert said, and next in line is Attorney General Mark Herring (D), who said Wednesday he wore blackface at a 1980 college party. "Damnit, Virginia, what is wrong with you?! Can't you just throw normal parties? If you must have a theme, how about 'respect for the historical struggle of oppressed minorities,' dress code: your face."

"Another Virginia politician was in blackface?" Trevor Noah marveled at The Daily Show. "The governor did blackface, the attorney general did blackface, and it only gets worse, because the next person in line for the job is the House speaker. And he's an actual can of brown shoe polish." Noah moved on to the wide-ranging federal investigation of President Trump's inaugural committee. "To be honest, we should have known something was off when he was sworn in on a copy of Money Laundering for Dummies," he joked.

"A lot of money went into Trump's inauguration," Colbert said, and it's not clear where that record $107 million went. "I mean, obviously they didn't need it for crowd control." Investigators are also examining if Trump's team helped foreigners give to the inaugural committee via straw donors, he said, "not to be confused with the straw donors who gave so generously to Trump's hair plugs." Watch below. Peter Weber

February 5, 2019

"Good news for the president out there — for one day, he's not our most embarrassing elected official," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. That would be Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who we just learned had a photo of a man in blackface and a man in a KKK outfit on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. "Now I know that looks bad, but it's actually very, very bad," Colbert said. On Friday night, Northam apologized but on Saturday, "when people still wanted him to step down, he had a change of heart — and of memory," saying he discovered he isn't in the photo.

Amazingly, Northam then acknowledged he did put on blackface another time when he won a dance party dressed as Michael Jackson. "You might want to learn to moonwalk away right now," Colbert advised. "Maybe moonrun."

"Yo, this guy's a legend," Trevor Noah marveled at The Daily Show. "His new defense is that he knows he didn't do this blackface because he clearly remembers doing a different blackface?" And the details are even worse. "I'm sorry, how did he already know it's hard to get the shoe polish off your face?" Noah asked. "Because at first it sounded like he made a mistake. Now it sounds like he's a blackface connoisseur."

This should be "pretty straightforward," Seth Meyers said at Late Night: "If you're caught doing something that horrific and your entire party tells you to quit, you resign, end of story." Instead, Northam kept digging. Like Colbert and Noah, Meyers was amazed Northam would've moonwalked for reporters if his wife hadn't stopped him. "Basically every major Democrat in the state of Virginia and Washington and across the country has called on Northam to resign," but Donald Trump Jr. still "tried to use the Northam scandal against Democrats," Meyers said. "Your dad is the birther who proposed a Muslim ban and said Nazis are fine people, so maybe sit this one out." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 16, 2019

Tuesday's Late Show used President Trump's giant hamburger takeout order to remind everyone that he once cut a TV ad for McDonald's — only in this version, Grimace is very curious about why Trump is doing so much to help Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of the bombshell reports about Trump last weekend was that he commandeered the notes his interpreter took of one of his secretive conversations with Putin. Luckily, Trump "kept his own notes," Stephen Colbert said, holding up a drawing. "See, there's Trump and Putin, and apparently that pile of cheeseburgers is Friendship Mountain. Fun fact: We wrote that joke yesterday morning, hours before the president posed in front of an actual mountain of 'hamberders.'" Trump has also spent the last year threatening to pull the U.S. from NATO, a top item "on Putin's Amazon Wish List," Colbert said, "along with Not Shirts and Western Ukraine."

Colbert pivoted to Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) recent defense of white nationalism and white supremacy. "King got a lot of heat for the comment, and it wasn't just because he was standing next to that cross," he joked, noting that Republican leaders finally responded by stripping King of all his committee assignments. "I applaud the Republican effort, but why now?" Colbert asked. He showed a reel of some of King's other greatest hits.

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah took a deeper dive into King's past comments. "As it stands, Steve King said a thing that's really racist, but he claims that he isn't racist at all," Noah recapped. "So which is it? Is he racist or not?" He transformed into "Trevor Noah, Racism Detective," and ran through the evidence. "On the one hand, we have Steve King being racists toward Mexicans, Muslims, and the entire non-white world," Noah said. "But on the other hand, he says he's not racist. Huh, even I'm not good enough as a racism detective to crack this one." Watch below. Peter Weber

November 1, 2018

Rep. Steve King (R) "is the congressman from Iowa's 4th District," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "He also happens to be the district's most disgraceful white supremacist, barely edging out the runner-up, a cow named Adolf Heifer." She showed a reel of "Steve's greatest hits," adding: "How racist is this live-action Disney villain? For one thing, until recently, he kept a Confederate flag on his desk — even though, again, he's from Iowa, which was on the Union side."

"Steve King is also really into neo-Nazis," Bee said. She made a NSFW slam on King; noted he said Austria's far-right, Nazi-founded party would be part of the Republican coalition; and got a little self-referential: "Oh my God, did Steve King just say Nazis are Republicans? So tomorrow morning when you read the headline 'Samantha Bee says Republicans are Nazis,' remember, I didn't say that! Steve King said it. Now you might be wondering: Why was Steve King even meeting with a Nazi-led party in Austria anyway? Turns out he was on a Holocaust memorial trip." Womp womp.

"Steve King has consistently spewed racism for 16 years, with only the occasional half-hearted reprimand from his party" — until this week, Bee sighed. "I look forward to 16 years from now, when President Paul Cyber Ryan gets around to condemning Trump's racism."

Bee also tackled anti-Semitism. "In response to the anti-Semitic massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday, the White House was quick to denounce the hateful attacks on the true victim, our president," she said. Yes, President "Trump and many other Republicans reacted to the shooting by condemning anti-Semitism — always nice when we can agree that some hate crimes are bad — but the truth is, the Republican Party tolerates anti-Semitism and benefits from it." You can watch her argument on how anti-Semitism "is shockingly mainstream in the Republican Party," and the history behind the mainstream right's vilification of George Soros, below. Peter Weber

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