Seth Meyers continued his streak of being one of the most reasonable, cool-headed and centered late-night personalities by delivering a brief but impactful speech at the top of his show about the weekend’s events in Charlottesville.
Meyers laid out in the briefest of terms what happened in Charlottesville, making sure to mention that the words “terrorist” or “terrorism” never once left the spittle-flecked and puckered mouth of Donald Trump. He then cut quickly to Trump’s dyspeptic statement that condemned “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
“If that choice of words made you feel sick to your stomach,” Meyers said, “the good news is you’re a normal and decent person.” Without getting emotional, Meyers stayed on course. “The leader of the country is called the president because he’s supposed to preside over our country,” he said, before laying out precisely how Trump fails to fulfill the requirements of the job.
Late-night television hosts aren’t required to comment on the specific political climate, but part of their job is to offer commentary. Meyers has emerged from the shadow of Trump’s presidency with some of the clearest and most stinging rebukes of the state of the country. Jimmy Fallon has professed a desire to stay true to himself, which means continuing to trot out celebrities for extended bits and inventing new games that go on for about five minutes longer than you’d like. His response to Charlottesville was moving in its own way—emotional and perhaps tinged with a bit of regret for the way he’s treated Donald Trump in the past.
Plucking the heartstrings of viewers across the country by invoking his young children is one way to respond to this tragedy, but Fallon’s statements are not nearly as explicit as Meyers’s critique of the President—which is not a requirement, but something that seems prudent to lead with. Less than a year ago, when Donald Trump was a vague threat gaining steam, Jimmy Fallon ruffled his hair as if they were old friends, taking the wind out of Trump’s sails and humanizing him when he certainly did not, and does not, deserve it. Here, Fallon mentioned Trump almost in passing, saying “The fact that it took the President two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful.” The sentiment is valid—but if you’re going to say something about domestic terrorism, white nationalism, and an angry mob of bitter white men who are scrambling to gain purchase at the top, it is craven and weak not to call out their leader by name.