What: A harsh appraisal of Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
Who: Seth Meyers.
Why We Care: Not everyone in late night TV can criticize the president with credibility. Jimmy Fallon may sound off about standing up to racism in the face of Charlottesville, and his intentions are in the right place, but he still comes across like your goofy uncle momentarily lecturing about potato sack race safety at a barbecue. (And we’re years away from forgetting that fateful hair-tousle.) Seth Meyers, on the other hand, has aggressively and sharply criticized every move Donald Trump has made since storming the presidency. He has the moral authority, insofar as a late night TV host can be said to possess any, to strongly condemn the events of this past weekend, and make it meaningful, and he has done just that.
Before getting started with the show proper on Monday night, Seth put out a statement on Charlottesville, and it was a scorcher.
Meyers starts by counting off the many mistakes Trump made in responding to the situation, and what they suggest about his character. The president didn’t use the word “terrorist” or say the terrorist’s name, for instance, despite the fact that whenever a Muslim allegedly commits an act of terrorism anywhere in the world, Trump seemingly cannot condemn it fast enough. Furthermore Meyers puts Trump’s response in context with everything else we’ve seen from him on the topic of race, from the birther movement on. Then he finishes up by reminding his viewers of what a president is supposed to do during a crisis.
“The leader of our country is called a 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. And if he does not do that, if he does not preside over our society, then he is not a president. You can stand for a nation, or you can stand for a hateful movement. You can’t do both.”
Meyers delivers this statement somberly, without any of the comedic flourishes of Late Night; just the gravitas he’s earned through months of incisive political criticism. If anyone was hoping for a more comedic take on Trump’s response to Charlottesville, however, Meyers came through later in the episode with one of his beloved “A Closer Look” segments.