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Late Night Tackles Saudi Arabia
October 19, 2018

Stephen Colbert kicked off Thursday's Late Show with a family-friendly joke about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's reported post-election report on President Trump and Russia, and Sting's tantric ... prowess — followed by a Gen-X-friendly joke about Ferris Bueller's Day Off. "Of course the big story continues to be Donald Trump reacting to the likely murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with a firm ¯\_(ツ)_/¯," Colbert said. Trump has been exercising "an uncharacteristic amount of caution" in rendering a verdict on what happened to Khashoggi and whether the Saudi government is culpable, but on Thursday, the president "gave his hot take on the journalist's fate": "It certainly looks" like Khasoggi is dead, and "it's very said."

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo want everyone to cool their heels until the Saudis finish their investigation, "and Saudi Arabia is really making headway with their 'investigation,' because today, one of the 15 alleged Saudi killers died in a car accident in Riyadh," Colbert said. "One down. Right now in Riyadh there are 14 other guys saying, 'It's a nice day, I think I'm gonna walk.''

"Trump's getting some criticism for his bold soft-on-murder stance, but some people still have his back," Colbert said, showing a clip of televangelist Pat Robertson "downplaying Khashoggi's murder and prioritizing the financial benefit of siding with Saudi Arabia," notably when it comes to arms sales. "Thank you, reverend, thank you for capturing the core message of Christianity: How important can one man's death be?" Colbert deadpanned.

He ended with the profanity-filled shouting match outside the Oval Office between "the White House's own Statler and Waldorf," Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton. (The similarity really is striking.) Colbert counseled a truce: "Fellas, fellas, don't fight, you're both terrible." Watch below. Peter Weber

October 18, 2018

President Trump is facing increasing pressure to take action on the presumed murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. "There's mounting evidence that Saudi Arabia's leaders ordered this killing," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, but Trump told The Associated Press it sounded to him like Saudi King Salman "felt like he did not do it." Colbert did not find that persuasive. Trump then said the Saudis shouldn't be presumed "guilty until proven innocent," because "we just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh," he noted. "To which Brett Kavanaugh said, 'Hey, maybe leave my name out of this one. Dismembering a journalist is actually one of the crimes I have not been accused of.'"

The central figure in the story is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely called MBS, who is believed to have ordered the grisly murder. "So many people believe the crown prince was involved in the killing that Washington insiders are now grimly joking that MBS stands for Mr. Bone Saw," Colbert said. "But despite the mounting evidence, including reported audio of the murder, Trump continues to back his buddies the Saudis." Sure, "the world looks to America for moral authority, but Trump says there's something just as important," he added: Selling arms and other "things" to the Saudis, including perhaps the man sitting in the Oval Office.

"If U.S. news has you down, you can just head up north — because as of today, Canada has officially legalized recreational pot," Colbert said. "Naturally, there's going to be a lot of pot tourism, and Canada is ready to attract visitors with this new ad."

Colbert also ran through some (sometimes) happier American news about the Joker movie, Calvin Klein's tiger obsession, gas station boner supplements, and WikiLeaks. Watch below. Peter Weber

October 17, 2018

With the midterms only 20 days away, President Trump has been "sharing his thoughts on a variety of topics," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show, "including his favorite Chinese hoax, climate change." He recapped Trump's argument: "Trump says he doesn't believe in manmade climate change because his uncle was a scientist, and that means Trump has a 'natural instinct' for science. ... That's not how it works. If a pilot has a heart attack, they're never like: 'Is anyone on this plane related to a pilot?!?'"

But the question everyone really wants the answer to, Noah said, is this: "Does Trump believe Saudi Arabia was behind the disappearance and likely murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi?" Trump's critics say he's ignoring coldblooded murder by the Saudis because of money, and Trump seems to agree. "Say what you want about Trump, but he wears his moral bankruptcy on his sleeve," Noah marveled.

"President Trump is so eager to protect his possible weapons order that not only has he said, despite evidence, that he believes Saudi Arabia's side of the story, he's also said that they're the real victims here," Noah said — just as he had with a certain Supreme Court justice. "You're going to bring Brett Kavanaugh into this?" he gawked. "I like how Trump's way of dealing with an extremely sensitive issue is to bring in another extremely sensitive issue. He's like, 'Here to discuss school shootings, special guest speaker Bill Cosby!'"

"But you know what's funny?" Noah said. "In many ways, this is like the Kavanaugh situation. Trump says he wants to find out what happened, but in reality, he's already made up his mind. And you might be saying, 'Oh but Trevor, how do you know that the Saudi Arabians killed him? You're not a detective.' And that's true. But my uncle was a detective, so I've got it in my blood." Watch below. Peter Weber

October 17, 2018

Saudi Arabia has for years been known as "the super conservative country where women can't drive, gay people get flogged, and thieves have their hands chopped off," Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. It was taking strides to shed that reputation under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, until journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"So, a Washington Post journalist known for criticizing the Saudi government was seen entering the Saudi consulate, and then he was never, ever seen again," Noah recapped. "Now, I'm not a detective, but come on." The Saudi government has officially claimed Khashoggi left through the back door, but their security camera doesn't record images — an idea Noah found laughable. The Turkish government has another explanation. "Holy s--t, 15 assassins, private planes, and a black van?" he asked. "This doesn't sound like real life, it sounds like the opening of a James Bond movie."

"So it's looking more and more like Saudi Arabia had Khashoggi killed, and this isn't just a big deal for Turkey and Saudi Arabia," Noah said. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident who wrote for The Washington Post, and the Saudis are U.S. allies, so this is an American problem, too. But President Trump, pressured to step in, has repeatedly accepted the Saudi leaders' denials, and he even introduced a random new suspect, "rogue killers," he noted. Since nobody's buying that, "Saudi Arabia is preparing to release their latest excuse," Khashoggi dying during an interrogation gone wrong.

"I don't know whether to be horrified or impressed," Noah said. "Because this is diabolical. The Saudi government is testing their excuse before officially using it." Michael Kosta explained why America should be "honored" that Saudi Arabia is testing its excuses because it shows "Saudi Arabia respects us enough to find a lie that works for both of us." Watch below. Peter Weber

October 16, 2018

Stephen Colbert started Monday's Late Show by half-joking that he missed having an audience to share the crazy news with when he was off last week, in part because he wasn't sure if Kanye West really proposed repealing the 13th Amendment in the Oval Office with President Trump, or whether that was just an absinthe dream. "But one of the strangest and most horrifying stories last week was the disappearance and presumed murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi," who Turkish investigators say was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he said.

One of the more gruesome details involves the alleged 15-man Saudi hit squad that arrived in Istanbul with a bone saw shortly after Khashoggi vanished; one of the 15 was apparently a Saudi intelligence autopsy expert. "He's also star of the CBS procedural, CS-I Am the Murderer," Colbert joked, darkly. "Very short episodes — they find the body, he did it, roll credits." The Saudis long denied killing Khashoggi, "but the evidence is overwhelming that Saudi Arabia committed a horrific, violent act," he said, "which can mean only one thing: We're invading Iraq!"

"No reasonable person would take Saudi Arabia's denial seriously," Colbert said, cutting to footage of President Trump suggesting "rogue killers" murdered Khashoggi because the Saudi king denied any involvement. "Here's how weak Trump's excuse is: Even Saudi Arabia is not buying it," he said, pointing to reports saying the Saudis will assert Khashoggi died during an interrogation gone wrong. "Let me ask an obvious question: Any interrogation that involves 15 men and a bone saw, how does that go right?" Colbert ended with one possible explanation for Trump repeatedly bending over backwards to excuse the Saudis, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

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