Late Night Hosts Get Serious Addressing Charlottesville Rally and President Trump's Response to Violence
After a weekend of violence and racially-motivated hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia, late night talk show hosts returned to TV with a notably somber tone and many spoke out against the white nationalist rally as well as President Donald Trump's tepid reaction to an attack that occurred during a counterprotest.
Jimmy Fallon, who has often refrains from taking strong political stances on The Tonight Show, opened up Monday's episode with an emotional address, getting choked up as he recounted the events that transpired over the weekend.
"Even though the Tonight Show isn't a political show, it's my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being," Fallon shared. "What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, was just disgusting."
"I was watching the news like everyone else, and you're seeing Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists, and I was sick to my stomach," he continued. "My daughters are in the next room playing, and I'm thinking, 'How can I explain to them that there's so much hatred in this world? They're two years old and four years old, they don't know what hate is. They go to the playground and they have friends of all races and backgrounds. They just play, and they laugh, and they have fun."
"But as kids grow up, they need people to look up to. To show them what's right and good. They need parents and teachers, and they need leaders who appeal to the best in us," he added. "The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful. And I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. It's important for everyone, especially white people in the country, to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it."
Fallon also welcomed one of his guests for the night, actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, to the stage to deliver a powerful and timely spoken-word performance of his song "Sour Times."
Jimmy Kimmel's tone was less somber, but much more fiery as he criticized Trump and mocked the white nationalists who marched through the University of Virginia campus with tiki torches while shouting racist rhetoric.
"We went into the weekend worrying about Kim Jong-un starting a war and we came out of it wondering if our president is cutting eye holes out of his bed sheets," Kimmel said. "As you know, this weekend in Virginia the worst people in the United States went to the hardware store, bought tiki torches and lit them up to march in Charlottesville."
Before openly condemning racism on Monday, Trump took a lot of heat from the media and activists for his refusal to expressly condemn the actions of the neo-Nazi and white nationalist protesters, or the attack that claimed the life of 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer, who was protesting against the rally.
Trump was slammed for his initial comments when he stated, "We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides."
"There were two sides -- not 'many sides' -- and one of those sides had Nazis on it. All he had to do was condemn the Nazis. It's not exactly a controversial stance," Kimmel retorted. "After much prayer and reflection, the president this morning decided to take the difficult step of condemning the Nazis and the Klan, which is big for him. This is the sort of thing that could alienate his base."
Seth Meyers, who has been one of late night's most outspoken critics in regards to Trump and his policies, delivered a passionate condemnation of the president's actions and remarks.
"On Saturday, there was yet another attack on American soil. This one was allegedly perpetrated by a white supremacist named James Fields against a group of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. He drove his car into a crowd and killed a woman named Heather Heyer. It was a horrifying incident that left most of the country stunned and terrified," Meyers said. "But on Saturday, you didn’t her name or the terrorist's name, or even the word terrorist from our president."
"'On many sides,'" Meyers said, repeating Trump's terminology. "If that choice of words made you sick to your stomach, the good news is you're a normal and decent person. The jury's still out on the president, as he initially refused to condemn the white supremacist movement in the country."
"The leader of our country is called the 'President' because he's supposed to preside over our society. His job is to lead, to cajole, to scold, to correct our path, to lift up what is good about us, and to absolutely and unequivocally and immediately condemn what is evil in us," Meyers explained. "And if he does not do that, if he does not preside over our society, than he is not a president. You can stand for a nation, or you can stand for a hateful movement, you can't do both. And if you don't make the right choice, I'm confident the American voter will."
Meyers also dedicated 14 minutes of the program to his popular "Closer Look" segment, in which he examined the Charlottesville rally and the nation's reaction to in in greater depth.
Conan O'Brien sat down with Minnesota senator Al Franken, who also slammed Trump for his response to the tragic terror attack.
"President Trump, instead of condemning the white supremacists, just went out and said, 'I condemn all violence from everybody,'" Franken said. "And I thought that was horrible – and it was very him."
"I don't know why, on that first day, he did not condemn what they did, and I fear that he thinks this is part of his base or something," he added.
Stephen Colbert also opened The Late Show with a condemnation of the rally and of Trump's comments.
"It is difficult to express how heartbreaking it is to see something like this happening in our country. But here's one thing that's not difficult to express: Nazis are bad. The KKK? I'm not a fan," Colbert said. "That wasn't hard. That was easy. I enjoyed saying it."
"How can you possibly say you condemn this in the strongest possible terms when you don't even name the groups responsible, or say what they did?" Colbert said, addressing the president.
"[Trump's] known for criticizing things. If only the president was as mad about neo-Nazis murdering people in the street as he's been about Hillary Clinton, the New York Times, CNN, Joe Scarborough, Kristen Stewart, the cast of Hamilton, Diet Coke, Nordstrom not selling his daughter's clothes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, me, the state of New Hampshire, Gold Star families, Penn Jillette's Las Vegas show, the movie Django Unchained, Meryl Streep and lady Ghostbusters," Colbert added.