Late Night Tackles Trump and Race
June 17, 2020

Protesters have been demanding police reforms for weeks, and "today the president himself carefully shuffled down the ramp into the fray," Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. It was all "a little confusing, because he signed an executive order that would make modest changes," but "he spent the whole time praising the police," he said. "The only paper Trump has signed with less enthusiasm were his first two marriage certificates."

Yes, "Trump signed an executive order on police reform," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show, but "before you get excited, don't — it doesn't do much," other than proposing "an Excel spreadsheet of all the worst cops in America," a chokehold "ban" with a huge loophole, and sundry other tweaks. "This event was supposedly about police reform, but Trump made it clear that he doesn't think it's that necessary," he said, and "he closed by making it creepy."

Colbert turned to former National Security Adviser John Bolton's upcoming book, the latest "damning White House tell-all written by a former White House staffer way too late for it to make any difference." Still, Bolton's book "must be extra spicy," because the Justice Department just filed a breach-of-contract suit against him, he said, shrugging. The lawsuit bizarrely claims Bolton broke a nondisclosure agreement, but "Trump should just cut Bolton a check for $130,000," he joked, making a Stormy Daniels reference.

Tooning Out the News thanked Trump for all the great free publicity on behalf of Bolton's mustache.

Bolton's "the guy who offered to testify during the impeachment trial, but the Republicans said nah, no thanks, we're good," Jimmy Kimmel recalled. At this point, he added, impeachment "feels like a Hulu show I was really into and then hated the ending of. But Bolton is back," and Trump is warning he'll have "criminal problems" because every conversation Trump has is "highly classified." "Those are rules for a bachelor party, not the law," Kimmel said. "He just makes things up as he goes."

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson is "literally putting a Band-Aid on the problem of racism," and Fox News appears to be "disappointed that there's no looting going on anymore," because they're now "manufacturing outrage in response to a nonexistent movement to cancel the show Paw Patrol," Kimmel sighed. "There's real stuff to be mad about, you know."

Late Night's Seth Meyers told jokes about some of them. Watch below. Peter Weber

June 16, 2020

Between COVID-19, historic racial unrest, and the Trump presidency, "I'm stunned that we got some actual good news today," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. The Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling that anti-discrimination laws protect gay and transgender employees "is a momentous change in LGBTQ rights," he said, "because now they have them."

"Sadly, the fight for racial justice is far from over," Colbert said, running through the police killing of yet another unarmed black man, Rayshard Brooks. Despite everything, "on Saturday Trump delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — because who better to inspire new members of our military than a draft dodger?" he asked. "The most suspenseful moment of the speech is when Trump attempted to quench his thirst," rivaled only when a "frail" Trump "hobbled down a gradual incline" at the end.

"Now, Trump's a senior citizen, so of course he walks slowly, and it would be pretty immature to waste time weighing in on this — which is why Trump weighed in on this," Colbert said. He fact-checked Trump's tweet.

The Late Show also gave Trump's ramp shuffle the CBS Sports treatment.

Tooning Out the News put jockeys on Trump's back for the West Point Rampstakes. (Trump won.)

It "turned out to be a historic speech — no president in the history of this country has ever taken a weirder drink of water," followed by "a very strange walk down a ramp," Jimmy Kimmel marveled. "We can only hope he steps down that gracefully after November."

"There's so much to say about the ramp video, and I just can't pick one joke, so I'm going to tell as many jokes as I can in the time it took Trump two walk down that ramp," The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon said. And he did.

"Deeply weird" Trump "once again showed off his fundamental weirdness after a speech at West Point, when he slowly descended a ramp like an old man being walked across the street by a Boy Scout," Late Night's Seth Meyers observed. "You know, for a guy who constantly talks about how tough he is, he sure walks like a baby deer on a frozen pond." Watching the video, he said, "maybe he does have bone spurs."

The Late Late Show's James Corden also found Trump's ramp amble amusing, and you can watch his jokes below. Peter Weber

June 12, 2020

"Protests are continuing all over America, and if that makes you nervous, you might be a Confederate statue, because fans of the Union are tearing down these monuments all across the South," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. Even "NASCAR's getting more progressive," banning the Confederate battle flag, he said. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised — all they do is turn left."

The U.S. Army also says it's open to renaming bases named after Confederate leaders, who, after all, "waged war on the U.S. miliary," Colbert noted. But President Trump said no, and maybe "it's not surprising that Trump's okay with naming things after old racist guys — he did name his own son Donald Trump." Still, he didn't think Trump knew enough about U.S. history to purposefully schedule his next rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth. Stephen Miller, on the other hand....

"Big crowds are expected, even welcomed" in Tulsa, Jimmy Kimmel said, "but anyone who gets a ticket has to agree in writing not to sue Trump if they get sick."

"In response to the removal of Confederate flags and statues, this morning President Trump tweeted: 'Those that deny their history are doomed to repeat it!'" Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Then he went back to not preparing for the second wave of coronavirus."

"So more than 150 years after the Civil War, the winning side is finally deciding it doesn't need to keep celebrating the side that tried to destroy them," The Daily Show's Trevor Noah applauded. Well, except Trump. Maybe he won't rename Army bases "because he's trying to appeal to his Confederate-loving base," Noah said, but "just take a second and imagine being a black soldier training at a base that is named after somebody who didn't even think of you as a human being. That isn't just offensive to those soldiers — it's offensive to the Confederate generals, too. Because I mean, imagine if they came back and saw what was happening at a base that is named after them. 'My God, all of the slaves have guns!'"

The dead Confederate generals were definitely on board with renaming the bases, on Tooning Out the News.

Trump evidently "decided to pin his hopes for a comeback on whining about polls and sticking up for the Confederacy," Late night's Seth Meyers said. "Of course Trump probably most hates the removal of Confederate statues because he stands like a statue of Donald Trump that is currently being pulled down." Watch below. Peter Weber

June 9, 2020

"Two weeks ago we were on Instagram teaching each other to make no-knead focaccia, now we're dismantling systemic racism," Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live. "I think that's progress." The Black Lives Matter "protests, they're like the president's suits: They just keep getting bigger and bigger," he said, and not just in the U.S.

Sen. Mitt Romney joined a protest on Sunday, and President Trump and other "Republicans are mad at him for it," Kimmel marveled. "The White House is reportedly concerned about the president's low numbers and some of his advisers are pushing him to give a unifying speech to the country — they might as well ask him to dunk on Shaq, because Trump doesn't care about unity. He doesn't even care about Tiffany."

"On Thursday we'll hear a nationally televised speech about race and unity, and on Friday we'll hear an apology speech for what he said on Thursday," Jimmy Fallon joked at The Tonight Show. "If Trump gives a national address, it will be broadcast on all major television networks, plus you can also watch it on BET with a laugh track."

The protests have been incredibly successful, Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show, but "law enforcement officers have met these calls to end police brutality with even more police brutality." The scores of video showing police "attacking protesters with no provocation whatsoever," assaulting old people, and "making a concerted effort to go after the free press" are "the antitheses of what America is supposed to stand for," he said. "This is supposed to be the country where you have the freedom to say whatever you want," and "the government is not supposed to physically punish you for that." America's policing crisis isn't a "bad apple" problem, Noah added, and "new rules and regulations" won't cut it.

"Police are lashing out aggressively because they see that the protests are working and that there's a growing demand for police accountability and for police resources to be shifted elsewhere," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. "We need to shift the money we're spending on tanks and tear gas and batons and move it instead to community programs like housing assistance and health care."

Tooning Out the News debated whether America should invade America, a failed state, with Richard Haass, former Bush administration official and president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Watch below. Peter Weber

June 5, 2020

Protests sparked by Minneapolis police killing George Floyd have spread to at least 430 U.S. cities and towns, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "This isn't happening just in our urban centers," he noted. "These demonstrations are everywhere" and they're "uniting Americans of all backgrounds — you may have noticed that Boise, Idaho, does not have a lot of black people."

"And please don't buy the false narrative that these are lawless mobs," Colbert said. "The vast majority of these protests have been peaceful," though "in many places, police are using curfew as an excuse to bring the smackdown on peaceful protesters." He showed several examples.

Still, Colbert said, "the attack that everyone is still talking about is Monday's military assault on peaceful protesters so that Donald Trump could shamble across the street to get handsy with a Bible. Trump has been criticized by a lot of people for misuse of the military," most powerfully his first defense secretary, James "Mad Dog" Mattis. Colbert re-nicknamed him "Principled Pooch."

"Mattis' decision to speak out is yet another indication of the truly precarious moment we're in," said Late Night's Seth Meyers. "Trump and the police establishment are obviously threatened by widespread popularity of the protests," which "have profoundly swayed public opinion. And this kind of massive, sustained political mobilization represents a direct threat to the unjust system of predatory policing we currently have, which is why the people who benefit from that system are lashing out so aggressively."

"Protests are continuing nationwide, but it seems that some common ground is being reached," at least in some cities, Jimmy Kimmel said. "In Washington, where law enforcement has taken a much more forceful approach, including tear-gassing peaceful protesters, things are not as amicable — authorities there are busy erecting another fence that will go around the existing White House fence," he said. "So it looks like Trump is finally getting his wall built after all. How long before we find out Don Jr. invested in a fence company?"

The new fence should work great — "unless protesters resort to the act of pushing," Jimmy Fallon deadpanned at The Tonight Show. "So far, Trump's turned out the White House lights, hid in a bunker, and is now building an ugly chain-link fence. He's like every crazy neighbor rolled into one." He recited a pitch-perfect Trump version of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Watch below. Peter Weber

June 4, 2020

The Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd was charged with second-degree murder Wednesday and his three colleagues were charged with accessory to murder, "so activism works, justice is possible, easy-peasy, hold-protests-for-nine-days-straight-in-380-American-cities squeezy," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. But President Trump is proving that, like many people feared, he's "a dictator fanboy," and "now we're teetering dangerously close to Trump making his dreams our nightmare" in the streets of Washington D.C.

Colbert revisited Trump's gassing of protesters so he could have a photo op at St. John's Church. "Apparently, Trump went medieval on the protesters in part because he was upset — humiliated, really — about the TV people revealing that he hid in a bunker over the weekend," Colbert said. But Trump told Fox News Radio's Brian Kilmeade that he had just gone down to the bunker "for a tiny, little, short period of time" mostly for "an inspection." He laughed.

"So, just how crazy are things right now? An anonymous source in the administration felt the need to push back on reports that Trump wanted to use tanks against the protesters," and it wasn't a very convincing pushback, Colbert said. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley are also "getting criticism for his fascist photo op" and helping erode the "U.S. armed forces' proud tradition of remaining out of politics to emphasize civilian control of the military," he said. "It reminds me of the old joke: Why did the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs cross the road? Because the president is a chicken."

"Our president is still getting his Bible thumped for that embarrassing photo session at St. John's Church on Monday," and "the White House today tried to explain why the orange chicken crossed the road," Jimmy Kimmel laughed. "Like Churchill? When Churchill said 'we shall fight them on the streets,' he wasn't talking about his own people!" Trump insisted "people" loved his church photo op, but "you have a problem when even the 600-year-old host of the 700 Club is not impressed," he said. "Trump's chief of staff said it was Ivanka's idea, and as a result Ivanka has been demoted to Eric."

Republican senators did not, generally speaking, join the criticism, The Late Show illustrated.

Late Night's Amber Ruffin unloaded on police violence against protesters in a "minute(s) of fury," and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

June 3, 2020

"For a week, America's streets have been filled with protesters enraged over the murder of George Floyd by police," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, and Monday evening President Trump "finally appeared in the Rose Garden to calm a troubled nation — by threatening martial law." Responding to protests about police brutality by "threatening to send in the Army to crush them," he said, is "like forgetting your child's birthday and apologizing by sending in the Army to crush them."

Trump wanted to end his speech with a stroll to St. John's Church, Colbert said, but "there was a crowd of peaceful protesters in the way. So he had military police open fire with rubber bullets, flash grenades, and tear gas," and "once the path was cleared for Caesar's brave shamble, Trump made his way across the street to the boarded-up church, where he, with visible confusion and discomfort, groped a Bible" for the cameras.

Tooning Out the News had God deal with Trump's photo op.

Trump has always been "an armchair thug who glorifies violence," but his Rose Garden speech and its aftermath "was one of the most menacing moments" of his presidency, Late Night's Seth Meyers said. We're at the "worst-case scenario where our democracy crumbles and our country descends into authoritarianism," he added. "There's no on-off switch. Democracy, it turns out, is on a dimmer."

Yes, "our president, if we can still even call him that, seems to believe he is the warden overseeing a prison break," Jimmy Kimmel said. "This is a week that any other president would have gone on TV and at least tried to bring us together," but Trump "can't even go through the motions."

"Mr. Tough Guy was whisked into a panic bunker on Friday as crowds assembled outside the White House — it took three-and-a-half years, he finally got that massive crowd to show up for him in D.C.," Kimmel joked wryly. "And the reports that he was holed up and hiding must have really gotten under that orange skin," because he had Attorney General William Barr gas protesters so he could go outside and hold "a Bible upside-down in front of a church." He ended by trying to explain white privilege for people who, like him, were skeptical: "White privilege doesn't mean your life hasn't been hard, it just means the color of your skin isn't one of the things that makes it harder." Watch below. Peter Weber

July 30, 2019

The Late Show began Monday's show with an homage to Shark Week, "Great White Nationalist Week," starring — who else? — President Trump.

Shark Week turns 31 this year, Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "Of course, the most terrifying shark of all is the dreaded baby shark. Not only are your kids singing about 'em all day, soon they will be eating them, too," in Kellogg's newest sugar cereal. He recapped the story of a feral squirrel then pivoted: "Speaking of rodents, the president is on the attack yet again, lashing out at yet another coincidentally not-white member of Congress, Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee."

Kimmel read some of Trump's more than a dozen tweets attacking Cummings and his district's biggest city, Baltimore. "What a thing to say about a city in America!" he said. "The man who tells us love-it-or-leave-it has now attacked more cities than Godzilla." Trump denied that his tweets are racist, arguing that Cummings is the real racist here. "Whatever you call him, he calls you back," Kimmel said. "'Racist? You're a racist!' 'I colluded? You colluded!' This must be fun for his doctors: 'I'm obese? You're obese!'" He ended with a theory involving The Wire and an amusing half-fake CNN preview of this week's still-overcrowded Democratic debates.

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert approached Trump's Baltimore attacks "in our ongoing segment, 'Is Donald Trump Racist? Episode 3 ... million.' Previously on 'Is Donald Trump Racist?' — yes! But some people still aren't convinced."

"Trump sent out the usual suspects to defend him on the Sunday shows," Colbert said, applauding Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace for shutting down acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's rationalization, then grimacing at Mulvaney's comeback. "Wow! Pro tip: If you're trying to distance yourself from accusations of being a white supremacist, maybe don't use the excuse 'Donald Trump's not racist — he'd say the same thing about Jews!'" Watch below. Peter Weber

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