On Thursday’s episode of “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert abandoned jokes for his monologue and instead delivered an impassioned, emotional commentary inspired by a disturbing speech Donald Trump made on Thursday. In his remarks, Colbert denounced Trump as “a fascist,” frequently choked back tears, and all but begged Republicans to speak up before it’s too late.
If you aren’t sure what we’re talking about, hours after Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden gave a short speech urging voters to remain calm and let the ballot counting process continue, Trump gave a very different speech full of false statements and baseless accusations of electoral fraud throughout the country. Specifically, he claimed that he wins if only “legal” ballots are counted, and if Joe Biden wins it’s because “illegal” ballots were counted.
The speech proved beyond the pale for most news networks, most of whom literally stopped airing it and instead focused on fact-checking Trump’s obvious lies. CNN flatly called Trump “pathetic,” and even Fox News called Trump’s baseless claims into question. Read more about that here.
That disturbing spectacle was very much on Colbert’s mind when he kicked off the late show wearing an all-black ensemble. “It’s why I’m dressed for a funeral. Because the president is trying to kill something,” he said to kick things off.
Rather than summarize, we’ll post his remarks in full below. You can also watch the whole thing above, or click here.
“Around 7:00, the president came out into the White House briefing room and lied for 15 minutes. Just nonsensical stuff about illegal vote dumps, and corrupt election officials, and secret Democratic counting cabals and, I don’t know, long-form birth certificates probably. It’s all the same. And if you did not know that Joe Biden was getting close to 270, Donald Trump just provided all the proof you will ever need.”
“True story, I’m wearing black tonight because I was getting dressed this afternoon, and I thought ‘he might try some shenanigans, and it might be fitting to try to tell jokes while wearing something somber, if he goes down that dark path.’ And I’m no prophet, it’s just that he’s so predictable.”
“For weeks we’ve been talking about how there’d be a ‘red mirage’ and how all those outstanding Biden mail-in ballots might let Joe catch up, and that Trump would probably come out around, I don’t know, Thursday, maybe evening news time, and pretend he won and accuse everybody else of cheating. The guy does not have another gear, get a new act!”
At this point, Colbert played a clip from 2016 in which Trump said he would accept the results of the election “if I win.” When it ended, Colbert said “So we all knew he would do this,” as he appeared to choke back tears. After taking around 15 seconds to compose himself, Colbert continued with tears in his eyes:
“What I didn’t know is that it would hurt so much. I didn’t expect this to break my heart. For him to cast a dark shadow on our most sacred rite, from the briefing room in the White House. Our house, not his. That is devastating. This is heartbreaking for the same reason that I didn’t want him to get COVID. Certainly why I wanted him to survive. Because he is the President of the United States. That office means something. And that office should have some shred of decency.”
“Now we always knew that he would leave a stain there, and not just from his butt bronzer, because everything he did — everything — is now in some way ‘presidential behavior.’ Including this. Unless every single person rejects what he just did. And that means for all the predictable behavior over the last few days, and the last 4 years, right now something unpredictable needs to happen: Republicans need to speak up. All of them.”
“Because for evil to succeed, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing. So say something right now, Republicans. Not later, not after you’ve stuck your finger up in the wind or wherever you want to put it. Right now.”
“It’s in your best interests. You’ve only survived this up until now because a lot of voters didn’t want to believe everything that was so obvious to so many of us: That Donald Trump is a Fascist. And when it comes to democracy versus fascism, I’m sorry, there are not ‘fine people on both sides.’ So you need to choose, Donald Trump or the American people. This is the time to get off the Trump train. Because he just told you where the train is going, and it’s not a passenger train. And he’ll load you on it someday too.”
“Now in the absence of good men, what about Mitch McConnell? Has he said anything? What did he say? He declined to comment. OK. Mitch McConnell has declined to comment. The maxim of the law is qui tacet consentire — ‘who is silent gives consent.’ So Mitch, we heard you loud and clear. You’re OK with this. It’s not even a hard call. This is in your self-interest to support votes being counted. That’s how you got your jobs. But I guess Mitch McConnell is saying that he was reelected through fraudulent votes as well, and he’s holding onto the Senate because of fraudulent elections in other states, Republicans picked up seats in the house because of Fraudulent elections, so cast them all out?”
“Is that what your silence is saying, Mitch McConnell? Because Americans are gonna count something else, starting right now. They’re going to count who was willing to speak up against Donald Trump trying to kill democracy. And they’ll count who will stay silent in the face of this desperate attack on the bedrock institution of this truly great nation. Because he just attacked the thing that makes u most great, and it’s time for you all to mean what your hats have been yelling.”
“By the way, if Donald Trump is right, if Joe Biden did pull the strings behind the scenes in Republican states like Arizona and Georgia, while coordinating with Democratic states like Pennsylvania and Nevada, and Wisconsin and Michigan, and throwing in the red herring of letting Republicans keep the senate and gain a few seats in the house, while just barely removing Donald Trump?”
“Wow. I mean, kudos to that level of interstate coordination. I mean anyone who could accomplish that many things at once, right now, really would be the president we need during a global pandemic.”
“This is one I really wish I could swear. But I’ll say this: We’re not gonna show you a second of what that sad, frightened fraud said tonight. Because it’s poison, and I like you. He can suck silence.”
Colbert concluded by showing a clip from Wednesday of a Trump supporter heckling Nevada official Joe Gloria, who remained calm throughout the bizarre encounter.
“Joe Gloria took a deep breath and did his job,” Colbert said. “Which is what we should all do. Just stay cool.”