Jon Stewart began the month of June with a triumphant return to the stand-up stage. He’s ending it with a return to late-night TV, where he delivered a message to President Donald Trump Thursday night alongside his old friend Stephen Colbert.
Tagging in for Colbert on The Late Show at the end of a very tough week, Stewart decided to speak directly to the president. “Hello, Donald. It’s me, the guy you made sure everyone knew was Jewish on Twitter,” he began, referring to his infamous online feud with Trump. “I know you’re upset about all the criticism you’ve been taking in the ‘fake news’ and the ‘fake late-night shows.’ It’s just that we’re still having a little trouble adjusting to your presidency as it goes into its 500th year.”
“Everything’s off its axis, it’s a little unusual,” he continued. “Apparently, Putin and Kim Jong Un are noble, intelligent role models, and Canada’s a bunch of giant assholes. But, he said, “If there’s one hallmark to your presidency that I think we’re finding most difficult, it’s that, no matter what you do, it always comes with an extra layer of gleeful cruelty and dickishness.”
“It’s not just that you don’t want people taking a knee, it’s that they’re sons of bitches if they do,” Stewart said. “It’s not just denying women who accuse you of sexual assault, it’s saying they were too ugly anyway. You can’t just be against the media, they’re ‘enemies of the people.’”
And then there is the issue of immigration, to which Stewart said, “Boy, you fucked that up.”
“You could have absolutely made a more stringent border policy that would have made your point about enforcement,” he explained. “But I guess it wouldn’t have felt right without a Dickensian level of villainy.” Instead, Trump “casually separated people seeking asylum from their children, from babies.”
Appealing to Trump’s “businessman” side, Stewart offered to negotiate. “For an end to this gratuitous dickishness, what can we give you?” he asked. “You dig the dictator thing. How about a giant building with gold toilets and your name on it?” When Colbert whispered to him that Trump already has that, he suggested “a whole news network that spends 24 hours a day praising everything you do.”
“Clearly, we’re not going to be able to negotiate or shame you into decency, but there is one place where I draw the line: I won’t allow you and your sycophants to turn your cruelty into virtue,” Stewart said, showing a montage of Fox News personalities and administration officials alike doing just that.
“You know, as the great Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘I am the least racist person you’ve ever met. The blacks, they love me,’” Stewart joked, adding, “Sorry, that was you.”
The real Lincoln quote concerned the one thing that Southern slaveholders wanted: “This and only this: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right.”
“It was on this point that Lincoln said the Union could not bend,” Stewart said. “And what Donald Trump wants is for us to stop calling his cruelty and fear and divisiveness wrong, but to join him in calling it right. And this we cannot do. And I say, by not yielding, we will prevail!”
He then added, “Unless, of course, the Democratic leadership continues to be a bunch of feckless…” But Colbert cut him off before he could finish that sentence.