NBC late-night host Seth Meyers, like his lead-in Jimmy Fallon, took a moment at the top of Monday’s Late Night show to address President Donald Trump’s failure to denounce the heavily armed neo-Nazis, and white supremacists who staged the violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, until the outrage became deafening from world leaders, and both sides of the aisle in Washington.
“On Saturday, there was yet another attack in American soil,” Meyer said, naming the white supremacist who has been charge with second-degree murder for deliberately plowing his car into a crowd of non-armed people protesting the rally, killing one and injuring 20 others.
“It was a horrifying incident that left most of the country stunned and terrified,” but, on Saturday, you did not hear the victim’s name, or even the word ‘terrorist’ from Trump, Meyers said.
What you instead heard from the man who has previously boasted “First!” in calling similar incidents terrorism even before authorities issue official statements, was a statement about the “terrible events,” which he described as an egregious display of hatred bigotry and violence “on many sides.”
That dog whistle was heard loud and clear by white supremacists, some of whom took to their web site to celebrate Trump having not denounced them in his statement, as reported by cable news outlets. Meyers addressed that too, saying that if Trump’s “choice of words made you feel sick to your stomach the good news is you are a normal and decent person.”
Trump did finally read a statement off a teleprompter denouncing KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis – on Monday. Meyers were not impressed, saying, “I’m sorry; pencils down on this subject was Saturday evening.”
Then, Meyers seriously addressed Donald Trump’s rise to power and those who had helped normalize him along the way:
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 did not know that an American could have a name like Barack Obama. Then he called Mexicans ‘rapists’ during the speech announcing his candidacy. He called Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas.’ Then he brought Steve Bannon to the White House with him, and worked to take away voting rights from black people, and hammered away at the idea that Chicago was a wasteland because of the violent black people living there.
White supremacists and American Nazis are visible, energetic and demonstrative in a way we’ve not seen in our lifetimes. Donald Trump did not immediately denounce the white supremacy movement when given the chance. And now, whether he knows it or not, many of those people see him as leading that movement.
A president, Meyer said, “can stand for a nation, or you can stand for a hateful movement. You can’t do both.”