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Stephen Colbert’s Debate Monologue Responded to Trump’s Refusal To Denounce White Supremacist Proud Boys
“I come to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, an empty vessel, a man with a mind wiped clean,” said Stephen Colbert in his post-presidential debate monologue last night. Colbert, like so many of us, was helpless against the mind-cancelling fury incited by the debate, which consisted of three elderly white men shouting incoherently over one another. Yet arguably the debate’s most stunning moment came when Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacy, leaving Colbert shocked by what he called “one of the most upsetting moments, not only of the night, but of my lifetime.”
When asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he would condemn “white supremacists and militia groups,” and, “say they need to stand down and not add to violence,” Trump skirted the question.
“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. When Wallace pushed Trump to denounce the Proud Boys, Trump dog-whistled to the extremist group, saying, “Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by.”
After playing the clip, Colbert pantomimed 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! Proud Boys! Stand back! Sit! Who’s a Proud Boy? You’re a Proud Boy!” (Shortly after the debate, the Proud Boys took to social media to celebrate Trump’s shoutout.)
Yet after continued impersonation of other memorable moments from the debate, Colbert ended his monologue on a serious note, speaking to the pain and confusion felt by a nation riven with division, death, and pain.
“After an hour and a half of soul-pulverizing menace, I feel like I did coming out of Star Wars: Episode One—The Phantom Menace. How can we possibly do this two more times?” Colbert said. “Ultimately, I think the American people, they were hurt tonight. And if you look online, they’re angry. Because this is a serious moment, where human lives and the future of this irreplaceable country is on the line.”
Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.
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