Jimmy Fallon, who has in the past been criticized for refusing to take sides on political issues, delivered an emotional monologue addressing the deadly events Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. Fallon gave his speech just hours after President Donald Trump finally denounced the incident.
Heather Heyer was killed after a car plowed into a crowd of protesters gathered to oppose a "Unite the Right" rally of white nationalist and other right-wing groups; nineteen other people were injured in the incident. A 20-year-old man, James Alex Fields Jr., was later charged with second-degree murder in Heyer's death. "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 told his viewers. "What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., was just disgusting."
"I was watching the news, like everyone else, and you're seeing Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists. I was sick to my stomach. My daughters were 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 2 years old and 4 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," Fallon said. "They need parents and teachers and they need leaders who appeal to the best in us."
"The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful," he said. "I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. It's important for everyone, especially white people in this country, to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it. Remember, there are people who have given their lives to make sure this kind of hate doesn't spread. They've fought and died on the right side of history. One brave woman in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, died standing up for what's right at the age of 32. I can't look at my beautiful, growing, curious daughters and say nothing when these kind of things happen. We all need to stand against what is wrong, acknowledge that racism exists, and stand up for what is right and civil and kind, and to show the next generation that we haven't forgotten how hard people have fought for human rights. We can't do this. We can't go backward. We can't go backward."
Seth Meyers, who has long been critical of Trump and his administration, was even more outspoken on NBC's Late Night. "It was a horrifying incident that left most of the country stunned and terrified. But, on Saturday, you didn't hear her name or the terrorist's name, or even the word 'terrorist' from our President. What you heard instead was this: 'We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence—on many sides. On many sides.' On many sides? If that choice of words made you feel sick to your stomach, the good news is you're a normal and decent person," the comedian said. "The jury is still out on the President, as he initially refused to condemn the white supremacist movement in this country."
"Now, he did read a statement at the White House today that finally struck the right tone—but I'm sorry, pencils down on this subject was Saturday evening. He only gets very partial credit," Meyers said. "Some ignored it or played it down when Donald Trump claimed our first black president wasn't born in this country. It was racist and insane, but he was written off as a clown, a bitter little man who didn't know an American could have a name like Barack Obama."
Meyers recalled how Trump called Mexicans "rapists" and called Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas," a jab at her Native American ancestry. "Then he brought Steve Bannon to the White House with him, worked to take away voting rights from black people, and hammered away at the idea that Chicago is a wasteland because of the violent black people living there."
"Now white supremacists and American Nazis are visible and energetic and demonstrative in a way that we've not seen in our lifetimes," the TV host reminded his audience. "Donald Trump did not immediately denounce the white supremacist movement when given the chance, and now, whether he knows it or not, many of those people see him as leading that movement."
"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 said. "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," he concluded. "And if you don't make the right choice, I'm confident that the American voter will."
Later in the episode, Meyers spent over 10 minutes analyzing Trump's press conference. "We happen to have a president who has no problem quickly condemning things when he feels like it," the host said. "Trump has a permanent hard-on for condemnation, yet when it came time to condemn white supremacists and Nazis, it was Limp Dick City...That statement was so limp, he should have concluded by saying, 'This has never happened to me before.'"
"After two days of relentless public pressure, the president finally got around to saying specifically that Nazis are bad. It shouldn't take longer for the president to do the right thing than it takes to get a package from Amazon. In fact, it would have taken less time to literally order a DVD copy of Do the Right Thing," he said, later adding, "In a presidency that essentially just been an uninterrupted series of low moments, this weekend was the lowest yet. We shouldn't have to shame or pressure the president of the United States into saying that Nazis are bad. Mr. President, you didn't have to rise to the level of FDR of JFK; all you had to do was show the same courage and moral clarity as the people who make tiki torches, and you failed."
Over on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Jimmy Kimmel used humor and logic in an attempt to diffuse the tension. "It's another disturbing Monday in America. We went into the weekend worrying about the fact that Kim Jong Un vowed to start a war by the middle of this month, and we come out of it wondering if our President is cutting eye holes out of his bed sheets," the comedian joked. "As you know, this weekend in Virginia, the worst people in the United States went to the hardware store, bought tiki torches, lit 'em up and marched in Charlottesville. A non-violent protester was killed by a white supremacist, and so the President—who is the President, by the way—went on television to say this: 'We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, violence and bigotry—on many sides. On many sides.'"
"He started strong and then he had to throw in 'on many sides.' Let's not lay all the blame on the Nazis and the Klan; there were people who marched against them," he joked. "And then, for two, days he had no further comment. The one thing he decides to be quiet about is this!"
"Of course, everyone went nuts because there weren't 'many sides.' The protesters were shouting Nazi slogans. They were carrying Nazi flags. One of them killed a young woman and injured dozens of other people with his car. There were two sides—not many sides—and one of those sides had Nazis on it," he said. "All he had to do is condemn the Nazis, which shouldn't have been difficult thing. It's not exactly a controversial stance. It's not like we asked him to come out against puppies or something. They're Nazis and Klan members and people who put pineapple on pizza. They're terrible people! And it isn't as though he doesn't like to speak out. The reaction to this was enormous. It was all around the world. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, called the rally 'evil' and 'disgusting.' And you understand what that means? That means Germany is taking a stronger stance against Nazis than we are and they invented them."
"So then, after much prayer and reflection, the President this morning decided to take the difficult step of condemning Nazis and the Klan—which was big for him, because this is the sort of thing that could alienate his base," he said. "Even he knew he had to say something, and so, after a few minutes of bragging about the economy, he did: 'Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.'"
"What a difference a teleprompter makes! It's night and day. He sounds like a kid whose parents made him apologize for egging their neighbor's house. It's unbelievable," he said after airing part of the press conference. "If there's any silver lining to this—and there isn't, by the way—it's that any vacation he was hoping to have is now ruined. It's been a terrible vacation."
In a similar fashion, Conan O'Brien also mocked Trump on TBS' Conan. "That was a very depressing weekend," the comedian said. "I never thought I'd say, 'Thank God it's Monday.'"
"Today, President Trump made a speech denouncing neo-Nazis and the KKK. But people were upset because he waited 48 hours to do it," the late-night host joked. "When asked what took so long, Trump said, 'I watched Fox News so I didn't know anything happened.' Plus, no one at the country club seemed that upset! This weekend, President Trump told the country, 'We have to love each other.'...Then he said, 'Until a younger, hotter country comes along, and then...'"
Stephen Colbert, another vocal critic of the Trump administration, said on CBS' The Late Show that it was "difficult to express how heartbreaking it is to see something like this happening in our country." But it wasn't difficult to express this: "Nazis are bad. The KKK? I'm not a fan. That wasn't hard. I enjoyed saying it." Colbert then launched into a takedown of Trump's tepid response to the rally, naming some things the president has verbally attacked with more vigor.
Trump, for his part, anticipated that his statements from Monday's press conference would not be well received. "Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied..." the politician wrote on Twitter. "Truly bad people!"
(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)