Late Night Tackles Trump and Race
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

July 30, 2019

President Trump spent the weekend on the attack, starting with an odd takedown of French wines and then an odder attack on his predecessor, Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "He's seriously blaming President Obama for the temperature in the White House? You see, this is what happens when you run out of things to blame Obama for."

"Then on Saturday, he took his beefs to the next level," Noah said, recapping Trump's attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) and his majority-black Baltimore-area district, using language about "infestation" he tends to deploy only "when talking about people of color." And "you don't need to be a genius to see what Trump is implying, because he's not a subtle person," he added. "Like, if Trump was a painter, his art wouldn't need to be interpreted, it would just say, 'I'm Sad' in giant letters."

"Many people say Trump's words are clearly racist, but Trump says it's the black people who are the true racists, because they keep bringing up race every time someone says something racist — it's a little suspicious, you have to admit," Noah deadpanned. He teed up "Trevor Noah: Racism Detective" to determine: "Is Donald Trump racist?" It was a very short episode.

Yes, "another weekend, another racist outburst from our racist president," Seth Meyers sighed on Late Night. Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, "is doing his job by investigating Trump and trying to hold this administration accountable," but Trump "keeps coming back to this racist trope because he's a racist; it's the core of his ideology. ... It's obvious. It's not like you need to play clips of him backwards like a Beatles record to hear some sort of secret message admitting he's a racist." Though he tried that, too.

The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon used the advent of shark week to make a similar point, slightly gentler: "Every year there are about 80 unprovoked shark attacks. Yeah, 80 unprovoked attacks — or as President Trump calls that, a weekend. Actually, Trump loves shark week: It's the one time he can tweet 'I love great whites' without being called a racist." Watch below. Peter Weber

July 23, 2019

President Trump placed 14th in an annual survey of the world's most admired men, far behind top pick Bill Gates and No. 2 Barack Obama, Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live. But "this might boost the president's admirability factor: Over the weekend, he involved himself in a high-profile legal battle with authorities in Sweden. Trump is using his clout to try to secure the release of A$AP Rocky, the rapper, who was arrested after a street fight — not a joke — in Stockholm a few weeks ago."

Trump got involved at the behest of Kim and Kanye West, and "I feel like we don't fully appreciate how weird it is that Kim and Kanye have a direct line to the president," Kimmel said. Trump even offered to "personally vouch for his bail," which Kimmel translated as "a long-winded way of saying 'See, I'm not a racist!'" He turned to Trump's most recent attacks on "the Squad" of four Democratic congresswomen, in case you were persuaded.

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah, for one, found Trump's comments on intervening to free A$AP Rocky a little rich. "That's right, folks, we're all one," he said in Trump voice. "And anyone who doesn't agree with that can go back to their sh-thhole country. Send her back!"

"This is one of those moments where I genuinely cannot believe that we're living in real life," Noah said. "Listen to the story: Donald Trump, who is the president of the United States, got a call from his friend Kanye West to save a rapper from a Swedish prison. This sounds like a headline written by a newspaper on LSD." Still, things should have gotten better here, "but just like Melania, it turns out Sweden appears to be immune to Trump's charms," he said. "Sweden is saying that in their country, a president can't interfere with an ongoing investigation. Imagine how hard it must have been to try to explain that to Donald Trump." Watch below. Peter Weber

August 18, 2017

President Trump "has had a lot of problems with history this week, mainly how he'll be remembered by it," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, "but also with defending the Confederacy." Colbert took special issue with Trump's argument, on Twitter and at a press conference, that because George Washington owned slaves, the decision to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will lead America down a slippery, heritage-erasing slope to removing statues of Washington and fellow slave owner Thomas Jefferson.

"Comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson is just willful dumminess," Colbert said, coining a word. "Washington and Jefferson have monuments not because of the slaves but because they fought the British, founded the country, and wrote the Declaration of Independence. We have statues of Robert E. Lee because he chose to secede and fight for slavery." Taking down Confederate statues "isn't about denying that slavery happened, it's about not celebrating the people who fought to keep it going," he said. "That's why we remember the Titanic but don't erect a monument to the iceberg."

On Saturday Night Live's Thursday night "Weekend Update," Michael Che invited George Washington, as played by Jimmy Fallon, on to defend himself. "About this Robert E. Lee thing, I'm nothing like that guy," Fallon's Washington said. "I created this country, he tried to tear it apart. I rebelled against England, he rebelled against America. Him bad, me the founding father, the original dad — Who's your daddy? Me!" He tried to leave, but Che stopped him, reminding him that he (Washington) did own slaves. Fallon said Jefferson was worse, prompting Jefferson (Seth Meyers) to come out and accuse him of throwing him "under the carriage."

After some playful banter, the two founding fathers looked solemnly into the camera, music playing. "In the end, Michael, we don't need statues to commemorate us," said Fallon. Meyers' Jefferson concurred: "Our legacy is the country that we risked our lives to create." "That is why this great nation has given us an honor greater than any statue," Fallon said: "a three-day weekend in February during which all Americans get 50 percent off all mattresses."

For a more serious discussion, CBS News political director John Dickerson gave Colbert his historical opinion in the last minute of his Late Show interview. Watch below. Peter Weber

August 18, 2017

Former Saturday Night Live head writer, "Weekend Update" anchor, and University of Virginia alumna Tina Fey has some thoughts about last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, President Trump's response to it, and what to do next. After Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence and death of a counterprotester at a white supremacist march, "I'm feeling sick, because, you know, I've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I wasn't confused by it," Fey told current "Weekend Update" anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che on Thursday night. "No, Colin, Nazis are always bad, I don't care what you say."

But this isn't over, she said, as Jost protested, because there are nine more alt-right rallies planned for Saturday, including one in New York City's Washington Square Park. "And part of me hopes these neo-Nazis do try it in New York City — like, I hope they try it and get the ham salad kicked out of them by a bunch of drag queens," Fey said. "But at the same time, I don't want any more good people to get hurt." So instead of going to protest the neo-Nazis and fight and shout this out, she said, non-Nazi sympathizers should support a local business — specifically a bakery that sells American flag cakes. "Sheetcaking is a grassroots movement, Colin," Fey said. "Most of the women I know have been doing it once a week since the election."

"Sheetcaking" isn't staying silent, exactly — you just yell what you want to say to the white supremacists (and Ann Coulter) into the cake while you are shoving forkfuls of cake into your mouth. Fey demonstrated how that's done, including the speaking-your- mind part. "In conclusion, I really want to say, to encourage all good, sane Americans to treat these rallies this weekend like the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: don't show up," she said. "Let these morons scream into the empty air." You may not feel much better about the state of the country after watching this, but you might feel a little peckish. Peter Weber

August 17, 2017

Surprisingly, there may be prominent American leaders who don't hate Nazis as much as you'd expect in 2017. But everybody hates zombies, right? To emphasize how President Trump's comments Tuesday about the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other "alt-right" marchers who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend might sound to those who unequivocally oppose white supremacy, The Late Show re-enacted Trump's press conference almost verbatim, but placed them in another context.

Stephen Colbert was slightly less subtle in his monologue on Wednesday, starting out by noting he is still reeling from Trump's "kamikaze press conference yesterday, where Donald let Donald be Donald, the consequences and our country be damned, and it was truly one for the ages — specifically, 1939 to 1945." He ran through some of Trump's comments, noted that Trump seemed to be pleased with them even if his staff was not, and compared Trump to a racist grandfather who shouldn't be speaking his mind in public places.

"In the wake of the furor Trump caused by channeling the Führer, the White House was desperate to get Republicans on board the flaming wreckage that was the SS Hinden-tanic by releasing talking points to Congress," Colbert said, indicating he was not impressed with the messaging. "But not every Republican followed the talking points," he said, showing a John Kasich interview and cheering, and then playing the second half. "Kasich is not the only profile in thinking about courage here," he said. "So far, the GOP's actions have spoken way more flaccid than words."

Still, "there was one group that really basked in the radioactive glow of the unshielded core of yesterday's Trump dump," Colbert noted. "Wow, David Duke complimenting your courage — that's like Jeffrey Dahmer complimenting your cooking: He means well, but it's a little upsetting." Watch below. Peter Weber

August 16, 2017

Despite the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend as various flavors of white supremacists marched ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, cities are picking up the pace in removing Confederate statues, Stephen Colbert noted on Tuesday's Late Show. One statue was torn down by protesters in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday, but most are being removed legally. "No word yet on where the statues will end up, but I'm guessing Steve Bannon's summer home," Colbert joked. Then he offered another idea, through an in-house ad for "Kopelski Twins Confederate Statue Modification Service," the "racist erasers."

In his monologue, Colbert focused on President Trump's pugilistic press conference on Tuesday, in which the president worried about the statues of slave owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, asking where the left's statue-removal drive will all stop. "I'm going to say it stops at the people who tried to destroy the country that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson founded, but I'm just spitballing," Colbert said, poking fun at Trump's claim that Jefferson was a "major slave owner." Sure, "easily in the Top 5 slave owners," he said. "Yeah, it goes Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Jabba the Hut, Ivanka's clothing line — there's a lot of them."

Colbert also disagreed with Trump's equal blame for "the white supremacist alt-right" and what Trump called the "alt-left," which is not a thing. "First of all, sir, the opposite of alt-right isn't the alt-left, it's the not-Nazis," he said, conceding Trump's point that not all the marchers were white supremacists and neo-Nazis. "That's right, some of them were anti-Semites — it was very diverse."

And if you're worried about Bannon, don't: According to The Late Show, he has quite the résumé. Watch things almost get NSFW below. Peter Weber

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