It’s been a slog of a week for America: a drawn-out presidential election count, during a surging pandemic, with still no clear winner as late-night shows taped on Thursday night. The Late Show aired after Donald Trump spoke from the White House and “tried to poison American democracy”, said host Stephen Colbert. Still on his election special set, Colbert wore all black, “dressed for a funeral”, he said, “because Donald Trump tried really hard to kill something tonight” with a 15-minute rant so full of lies and attempts to discredit the electoral process that even network news, finally, cut away.
Colbert planned for a somber evening, he added, not because he’s “a 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 then Trump would probably come out around, I don’t know, Thursday? Maybe evening news time, and pretend that he won and accuse everyone else of cheating. The guy does not have another gear, get a new act!”
Donald Trump has always been clear with his intentions, Colbert continued, rolling a clip of the president from 20 October 2016: “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election – if I win.”
“So we all knew he would do this,” said a visibly emotional Colbert, who took a long pause. “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 right, from the briefing room in the White House – our house, not his – that is devastating.”
The usually affable host urged, sans jokes, Americans to take in and reject Trump’s attempt to unlawfully grab power, including congressional Republicans. “For all the predictable behavior of the last few days, and the last four years, right now something unpredictable needs to happen: Republicans have 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,” he added. “Not later, not after you’ve stuck your finger up in the wind or wherever you want to put it. Right now.”
Colbert concluded with a call for Republicans to acknowledge “everything that was obvious to so many of us” – namely, that “Donald Trump is a fascist. And when it comes to democracy v fascism, I’m sorry, there are not fine people on both sides. So you need to choose: Donald Trump or the American people.”
“Please stay calm, the process is working,” urged Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday night, as counters continued to process ballots in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona. “We are watching a president bleed out in real time right now.”
Kimmel refused to air any clips from Trump’s lie-filled non-concession: “I won’t give him the pleasure of showing what he said tonight,” he said. “But the only thing he didn’t do was pull off his wig and reveal that he’s been Vlad Putin all along. It was a litany of lies, threats, just a litany of despicable and incoherent attacks on democracy in the United States.
“At the end of that speech, he should’ve been arrested,” Kimmel said. “If they could’ve found handcuffs small enough to take him away, they would have.”
On Late Night, Seth Meyers dismantled the various and contradictory attempts to stop or recount votes by the Trump campaign. “No one is buying these false declarations of victory, in part because even the Trump team can’t keep their bullshit straight,” Meyers said. “In Pennsylvania, they want to stop the count while they’re ahead; in Arizona, however, they’re suddenly concerned that the counting will stop while they’re behind. If you thought Trump’s ghouls had plumbed the depths of their shamelessness, think again.”
Meyers pointed to Trump surrogates Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who appeared on Fox News on Thursday to demand votes still be counted in Arizona, where Trump was behind. “You almost gotta applaud their ability to pivot on a dime from one brazen lie to another contradictory lie,” he said, “but hey, you heard it, from the president’s closest and most trusted advisers: ‘Let’s take our time and count the votes.’ And we agree: count every vote, in every state, everywhere.”
An hour later, however, Donald Trump tweeted: “STOP THE COUNT!” – evidence that “trying to stay on message with Trump is like trying to ride a mechanical bull slathered in olive oil”, joked Meyers.
And on the Daily Show, Trevor Noah also mocked the Trump campaign’s incoherent arguments for a Trump victory, as his supporters shouted “count the votes” and “stop the count” at protests in different states. “I can’t believe we were all terrified that Trump supporters would coordinate a civil war, and yet these guys can’t even agree on a slogan to shout in the streets,” Noah joked.
“Because they’re chanting to count the votes if Trump is behind in the state, but then if he’s ahead, then they’re chanting to stop the count. I mean, what happens if the state switches?
“But if Trump can’t win the election in the streets, he has one final plan: to win the election in the tweets,” Noah added, pointing to Trump’s wholly unsupported claim, on Twitter, that he won in Michigan. “Come on, Donald, what are you doing, man? Just because you shout it doesn’t mean it’s yours. This is the election, not riding shotgun,” Noah said.
Noah added: “Isn’t it ironic that Trump spent months warning that rioters were going to loot all the stores, but now he’s the one trying to loot the electoral college.”