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Colbert Condemns Trump’s Failure to Denounce White Supremacy During Debate

Stephen Colbert opened Tuesday’s live edition of The Late Show by expressing sheer exhaustion after watching the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“I come to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, an empty vessel, a man with a mind wiped clean,” Colbert said. “I have stood in the swirling chaos of creation. I have seen Shiva dancing the destruction, wielding his trident, carving great gouts out of the universe. The sky, at once both red and blue and black until all that remained was a starless void and the hollow husk once known as Chris Wallace. We have emerged from the mad whirlwind where we gazed upon the forbidden countenance of God himself, and he said unto us, ‘Jesus, stop interrupting him, you giant baby!’”

Colbert continued his rant by appropriating Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” for the current moment: “Yes, tonight saw the best minds of our generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical, naked, dragging themselves through the streets at dawn, looking for the mute button!” Colbert joked. “Forget fact-checking this debate—we couldn’t even do any sentence-finding! I never thought I’d say this, but I am so looking forward to the vice-presidential debate. I mean, for Pete’s sake, children watched that. I’m glad I’ve already had my children, because I think just watching that sterilized me.”

In the immediate aftermath of the debate, a large majority of journalists and pundits came to a similar conclusion. On CNN, Dana Bash called the event—during which Trump continuously interrupted Biden and made countless false statements—a “shit show.” On NBC, anchor Lester Holt categorized the debate as “a low-point in political discourse.”

But for Colbert, one moment, in particular, stood out as “one of the most upsetting moments, not only of the night but of my lifetime.” When asked by Wallace if he was “willing” to “condemn white supremacists and militia groups, and to say they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities,” Trump instead obfuscated.

“Sure, I’m willing to do that. But I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing. I’m willing to do anything, I want to see peace,” Trump said as Wallace urged him to specifically condemn white supremacist groups, and Biden pushed the president to denounce the Proud Boys, in particular.

“Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by,” Trump said. “But I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”

“Didn’t do it!” Colbert shouted after playing a portion of the contentious exchange. He then imitated Trump: “I don’t support white supremacists. I just command them, like a dog. That’s why I’ve got this shiny dog whistle. Proud Boys, stand back! Sit!” (Shortly after Trump’s remarks, the Proud Boys celebrated their mention on social media channels.)

Tuesday night’s event was the first of three planned debates between Trump and Biden, with subsequent public disputes set for October 15 and October 22. Not that Colbert is looking forward to those.

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