On Wednesday’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert opened with news that Minnesota’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, had elevated charges against police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with killing George Floyd last week by kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes. Ellison elevated Chauvin’s charges to second-degree murder and added charges of aiding and abetting murder to the other three officers on the scene. “So, activism works. Justice is possible – easy, peasy, hold protests for nine days straight in 80 American cities squeezy,” said Colbert.
Meanwhile, Trump’s recent conduct recalled for Colbert the night he was elected, when the host was “somewhat emotional” because “what I was worried about deep down is that Trump is a dictator fanboy. He is a lifetime subscriber to ‘Tiger Beat down the protesters’. And now we’re teetering dangerously close to Trump making his dreams our nightmare.”
Colbert referred to Trump’s “fascist photo op” on Monday, when he ordered non-violent protesters removed from the area in front of St John’s church in DC with flash grenades and teargas so Trump could take a picture holding a Bible. “It was like a little Tiananmen Square, or in Trump’s case, Tiny Man Square,” said Colbert. Trump reportedly “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”, reports which Trump attempted to dismiss of Fox News radio as “false” because he was there for a “tiny, little, short period of time … for an inspection”.
“That is an all-time great excuse,” said Colbert. “So he was just checking to make sure the bunker was OK – ‘I didn’t poop my pants, I just ran diagnostics on my boxers to see if they were load-bearing. They are.”
Even worse, Trump’s pap walk to the photo op was accompanied by the secretary of defense, Mark Esper, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mark Milly. “One of the hallmarks of American democracy is the US armed forces’ proud tradition of remaining out of politics to emphasize civilian control of the military, yet on the way to the photo-op – that was, yet again, preceded by attacking peaceful protesters – Esper and Milly walked with Trump across the street,” Colbert explained. “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.”
On Wednesday, Esper defended the farcical promenade by telling reporters: “I didn’t know where I was going.” Colbert would have none of it: “You’re the secretary of defense, and your defense is that you didn’t know where you were going? The rest of us could see exactly where you were going.”
Colbert also lamented displays of unnecessary force by police across the country, such as those dressed in riot gear on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and large, armored military vehicles driven down the streets of the capital. “Secretary Esper, do you see where we’re going now?” Colbert said of the vehicles. “It’s so close you don’t need a ride – you could walk. Although, really, more of a goosestep.”
“The whole world has been watching and weighing in,” said Jimmy Kimmel of the nine days of nationwide protests against anti-black racism and police brutality in America. Even China’s government released a statement saying it hoped America would “take concrete measures to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination”. “And when China is giving you a lecture on human rights – not a great sign,” said Kimmel.
Kimmel also lambasted Trump’s Bible photo op from Monday, which White House press secretary and “business suit Barbie” Kayleigh McEnany insisted on Wednesday was not a photo op despite basically telling reporters it was a photo op. “Let’s review the facts here,” said Kimmel. “He walked to the church. He stood in front of the church. He never went in the church. Never spoke to anyone from the church, didn’t examine the damage to the church, held a Bible upside down, didn’t read from the Bible, didn’t give a speech, posed for photos and left.
“I don’t know, that sounds like a pretty textbook definition of a photo op to me. He treated it like taking your kid to see Santa at the mall.”
And on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon recapped Trump’s abysmal poll numbers, which put disapproval of his performance at 54%, the highest recorded for any president at this point in his first term. “Right now, Trump seems to be polling somewhere between Jake Paul and that time I decided to grow a mustache for the summer,” Fallon joked. “When Trump saw his numbers, he started crying and then was like, ‘I’m not crying, it’s the teargas from my church photoshoot blowing back in my face.’
“That’s right, everyone seems to be turning on him – to give you an example, Fox & Friends is now just Fox and Friend,” he continued. “At this point, Trump should just go for 100% disapproval and then take credit for uniting the country.”
As for the Bible photo op, Fallon had some questions on Trump’s form: “How does Trump not know how to hold a book?” he wondered, playing footage of Trump waving the Bible with his “broken GI Joe hand … it’s like he’s plucking the Bible from the Bible tree.”