Stephen Colbert shakes his head at Trump's fake-history tweets, self-destructive refusal to be tamed
Stephen Colbert started Thursday's Late Show on a serious note, recounting how at least 13 people were killed when a terrorist drove a van into a crowd of people in Barcelona. "This is a heartbreaking reminder that evil is real and that the United States is not alone in fighting it," he said. And Thursday afternoon, "President Trump said the right thing" — at least at first.
"I was sincerely happy to see that kind of moral leadership from our president — for about 45 minutes," Colbert said, using his Trump-tweet voice to read the president's follow-up tweet about Gen. John Pershing's fictitious pig's-blood executions. He played Trump's recounting of the fake but gruesome tale, suggested his bed-time stories must have been terrifying to the Trump kids, imagined some other made-up history lessons Trump might tell, then read a real Pershing quote that, for some reason, Trump doesn't bring up.
Historical accuracy isn't Trump's only problem, Colbert said. So is discipline. He's doubling down on his defense of white supremacists because, according to one adviser, Trump would rather have people call him racist that say he backed down. "Oh, then let me help: You're a racist," Colbert said, courteously. "Naturally, people are asking what happened to that new chief of staff that was going to keep him in line," he said, but "some people think it's already over for John Kelly."
Colbert was incredulous, noting that the current issue of Time, dated Aug. 21, calls Kelly Trump's last hope. "Kelly's time ended before it began," he said with mock solemnity. "He's some sort of time traveler. Now he just needs to get back into his DeLorean and go back to a happier time for him, like when he was fighting in Iraq." To memorialize Kelly's brief (but ongoing in real life) tenure, The Late Show showed a pretty remarkable, tongue-in-cheek recap of "General Kelly: 17 Days of Discipline." Watch below. Peter Weber
Monday's Late Show began with a quietly brutal, spliced-together speech that President Trump could have given on Saturday, after white nationalists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis tore through Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, but did not.
In his monologue, Stephen Colbert said he did not understand why Trump didn't just immediately condemn Nazis and the KKK, and recited an impressive list of things Trump has slammed. "After the president blew the easiest condemnation of all time, Trump took criticism from many sides, many sides," Colbert said. "But he did get praise from one group: neo-Nazis," and also, the KKK, specifically "former KKK grand wizard and current taxidermy lizard" David Duke. The White House put out an anonymous statement on Sunday claiming that "of course" Trump condemns the white supremacist extremists, Colbert noted, but "some people didn't need their anti-Nazi statements explained later," including Charlottesville's mayor.
Colbert had a laugh at the white supremacists marching with Tiki torches the night before the violence. "That's like villagers coming after Frankenstein holding scented candles," he said. "Your move, lawn flamingos." Tiki didn't find it so funny, putting out a statement disavowing the use of its torches in white-power rallies. "I've gotta say, it's pretty troubling when a backyard decoration comes out swinging stronger against Nazis than the president of the United States," Colbert said. But 48 hours after his "many sides" comment, Trump did read a proper condemnation on Monday, then took a pot shot at CNN's Jim Acosta when he asked if there was going to be a news conference, as advertised. "Sir, see how fast you condemned CNN, right off the top of your head with no script?" Colbert asked. "Next time, like that, but with Nazis." Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert started off Wednesday's Late Show by declaring that he's happy to be alive, a useful exercise in daily gratitude, then ran through the specific reason, starting with the U.N. Security Council's tough sanctions on North Korea, North Korea's retaliatory threat against the U.S., and the overheated response from President Trump. Yes, "renowned deal artist Donald Trump," he said, "saw their threat of apocalypse, and raised them one armageddon."
Trump's threat — "fire and fury the likes of which this world has never seen" — was classic Trump, or at least the second part, Colbert said, playing a reel of Trump saying variations on things "the likes of which we have never seen before," including an airport. But the "fire and fury" part was apparently improvised, because Trump was staring at an opioid fact sheet. "Look, I get it, I've done improv, and it can be tough," Colbert sympathized. "He should have started with getting a suggestion from the audience. 'Can I have a geographical location and a way the world will end?'"
North Korea was so intimidated that they immediately threatened to annihilate Guam, a threat Colbert found unfair: "Look, North Korea, leave Guam out of this. They're a U.S. territory. That means they don't participate in the elections, okay? They didn't vote for Trump — just like most of Americans."
"Now some are saying that Trump's atomic improv made things worse," Colbert said, but not Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said Trump is just speaking Kim Jong Un's language and Americans should sleep well at night. He pulled out a made-up book, Rex Tillerson's Sleepy Time Tales, but after reading one story, he balked. "It's just a book — we're probably gonna be fine," he said. "Anyway, sleep tight, kids, and say your prayers."
Not that Trump needs your prayers, Colbert said, pointing to the statement from Dallas Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress assuring everyone that "God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un." "Take out?" he asked. "Is that how God talks?" Like a cut-rate mafioso? "Now, I hadn't heard that God was pro-nuclear war," Colbert said, and Colbert's Late Show ceiling "God" stepped in to explain that all that peace-and-love stuff was from his "hippy Son." "One semester at liberal arts college, and all of a sudden it's 'Love thy neighbor' and 'quinoa is a super-grain.'" Watch below. Peter Weber
"I don't want to be alarmist, but we're all gonna die," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. This is inarguably true, but Colbert was referring to the mounting nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, and he started his recounting of events with the Washington Post report on North Korea's advances in miniaturizing nuclear warheads. "My god, Dennis Rodman, did you do nothing?" he joked. "But don't worry, the story gets worse."
Colbert stepped back, noting that of the 15 U.N. Security Council members who voted unanimously to levy new sanctions on Pyongyang, North Korea said it would only target one, the U.S., for nuclear retribution. Colbert turned this into a weird sexual thing: "Look, North Korea, stop trying to make us a thing, all right? I'm not saying what we have isn't special, but it's not exclusive. The United States, we sanction a lot of other countries, okay? I tell you, we sanctioned Russia just last week, and it felt pretty great. Listen, they threaten us in a way you never will — you should see the size of their missiles. You know what, maybe — I'm just thinking — maybe you should start threatening other countries, too, get out there, you know?"
Colbert did a sight gag with wolves and strangulation, then turned to the U.S. response. "Thankfully, faced with the greatest challenge of his presidency, Donald Trump stepped up and in a moment of pure statesmanship, de-escalated the rhetoric and brought calm to our worried nation," he said, pausing a beat. "I'm just kidding." After he played Trump's actual response, it was back to the gallows humor. Watch below. Peter Weber
On Friday, President Trump traveled to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, to start a 17-day "working vacation." On Monday, The Late Show had a short slide show of the highlights so far.
Trump deserves a break, Stephen Colbert said. "He's there to relax after months of grueling golf Mar-a-Lago." But Trump insists it isn't a vacation, saying he will be busy working the whole time. "Meetings and calls?" Colbert said. "Wow, Trump has to do all that during his vacation? Man, I would not want to work for Vladimir Putin. Tough boss." Maybe it isn't so grueling, though, he said, playing leaked video of Trump taking a break from his golf game for a high-level meeting with a bridal party.
Putin is also on vacation, Colbert noted, taking two weeks off in Siberia to shoot fish with a speargun — "though he later claimed the fish was killed by Ukrainian separatists," Colbert joked, kind of darkly — and pose with his shirt off. "Man, those sanctions have already devastated the Russian shirt industry," he joked, conceding that Putin's vacation still looked more promising than Trump's: "I would love to go on a bro-down fishing trip with Vladimir Putin. I bet it would be so much fun I would never come back." Watch below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert sheepishly mocks Trump's leaked phone transcripts, schools Stephen Miller on Lady Liberty
On Thursday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert pivoted from the latest threat to President Trump's presidency to his first week in office, "back when we were giving him a chance," and rumors emerged about some contentious phone conversations he had with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Trump denied the talks were tense and "these were private conversations," Colbert said. "Who do you believe? The guy who denied it or the guy who was lying? There was no way to know — until this morning, when The Washington Post published full transcripts."
"Now these transcripts, I believe, should not have been leaked," Colbert said, dutifully. "Bad leaker. Whoever you are, you shouldn't have done it. But you did, so let's just keep going." So he did, starting with Trump telling Peña Nieto that he really doesn't care about the border wall, up to where "Trump, for some reason, started talking smack about America." The Turnbull call was bonkers, too, and as rumored, it ended abruptly and poorly. "High-energy Don, Mr. Stamina, one week into his presidency, just gives up," Colbert said, reciting how Trump told Turnbull his was "the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call."
Later, Colbert returned to Trump's new immigration plan, which aims to halve legal immigration using a points system. "Kind of like Weight Watchers, but the goal is to lose brown people," Colbert said, listing the criteria that gets you points. "Ah, it's the classic immigrant tale," he summarized. "You come here at 28, speaking perfect English with a briefcase full of cash and a dream that if you work hard, your kids might go to the same college you did."
White House policy adviser Stephen Miller was sent out to defend the plan, and Colbert replayed his comments about the Statue of Liberty and its history. "There's a lot of crazy in his explanation there," he said. But "here's the thing about the poem on the Statue of Liberty — I agree with Stephen Miller that we're never going to live up to it. It's an aspirational document, like 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' or 'All men are created equal,' or 'Employees must wash hands before returning to work.' It's something to strive for." With that in mind, he picked up a torch and a tablet and recited an updated version of "The New Colossus." Watch below. Peter Weber
President Trump's speech in West Virginia on Monday to the Boy Scout Jamboree was unusual, and in some regards, kind of shocking. On Tuesday, The Late Show kicked off with a version that might send chills down your spine.
Stephen Colbert was bemused by Trump's baldly political, sometimes partisan speech, but maybe not by why Trump addressed the jamboree. "It's no surprise he went to the Boy Scouts — with all his scandals, he needs someone who's good at putting out fires," he joked. The Boy Scouts is a nonpartisan organization for boys and teens, but, of course, Trump "did his thing," Colbert sighed, beginning an annotated walk through the unorthodox address, from Trump bragging about the crowd size to his strange aside about being able to say "Merry Christmas" again, to his lighthearted threats to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
After dumping on the uncynical civic spirit of the Boy Scouts, Trump — who was never a Scout — began reciting the Boy Scout oath, but he stopped short at the word "loyalty," joking that he and America could use more of it. "We could use more loyalty," Colbert agreed. "For instance, that guy on stage just threatened to fire the guy he said was doing a good job. And then — as if Trump's insecurities and personal obsessions were not enough to pour poison into the ears of children — he told them this story." After Trump's tale of a ruined millionaire and his sex yacht, Colbert was ... inspired. "Now that they've heard from the president, the Scouts have updated their oath," he said, putting on a neck scarf, holding up three fingers, and taking Trump's speech to its logical, absurd conclusion. Watch below. Peter Weber
On Monday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert said his goodbyes to former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer — "He wanted to spend more time not answering his family's questions," he joked — and hello to the man who drove Spicer to resign, new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, whom he introduced with a little Bohemian Rhapsody riff. "I think this is not a good sign for the Trump administration, when six months in, they're already running out of story lines so they started adding crazy new characters," Colbert said. "Scaramucci's like adding Scrappy-Doo, or Chachi to Happy Days. He even has an adorable nickname."
Still, "The Mooch" hit the ground running, Colbert said, giving a classy sendoff to Spicer and offering some unsolicited hair and makeup advice to Spicer's replacement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "He's gonna fit into the Trump administration just fine," Colbert said. He trotted out his Scaramucci impersonation, which looked like something out of a bad Goodfellas remake, and played some of the highlights of Scaramucci's inaugural TV interviews as Trump's communications chief. One in particular, with CNN's Jake Tapper, was particularly puzzling, Colbert said, recapping: "So the president is the one who told you that the president's not in trouble, and you're not going to tell us because it's an anonymous source but then we ask and you tell us anyway? Why are we wasting this guy on communications? He should be the head of national security."
Later in the show, Colbert pointed out the obvious hole in Jared Kushner's new explanation for his meeting with a Kremlin-tied Russian lawyer peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton, then deconstructed Trump's tweet seemingly acknowledging his discussions about pardoning his aides and maybe even himself. "Reminds me of the passage in the New Testament when the apostle Judas said, 'Surely, I will not betray you, my Lord, but if I did you'd have to forgive me, right? That's like your whole deal. Also, are you a cop? You have to tell me if you're a cop.'" Watch below. Peter Weber