There were no cheers and no applause when Samantha Bee took the stage for Wednesday night’s episode of Full Frontal on TBS. She was the first late-night host to go audience-free amidst the coronavirus pandemic and did not hesitate to address the inherent awkwardness.
“Tonight we are going on a weird, wild journey together,” she began, “because, due to the increasing threat of the coronavirus, we wanted to do the responsible thing and not have an audience. OK, we have some people, but they work for us and they are sitting six feet apart as recommended by the CDC... and also because they hate each other.”
Just for fun, those writers put a bunch of jokes in Bee’s teleprompter that she hadn’t seen yet.
“Alright, the world is ending but let’s pretend we’re still going to have an actual election in November!” Bee said. “Who fucking knows?!” Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders may be canceling their campaign rallies, but as the host said, “Meanwhile, our president is bravely denying anything is wrong.”
But it is the way Trump and the conservative media are talking about the coronavirus that Bee sees as equally problematic. After playing a montage of Fox News hosts and pundits blaming the outbreak on the Chinese, the host said, “China, we know it’s not your bad. But could you please send Brian Kilmeade an edible arrangement so he’ll shut the fuck up?”
“Tying coronavirus to China and Chinese people isn’t just a racist dog whistle, it’s a whole racist orchestra,” she continued. “It’s a mighty, mighty racist bosstone, which brings me to this important point: The coronavirus is not an excuse to be racist. I know racism is like America’s weighted blanket. When everything is stressful, nothing makes us feel more secure than treating other people like trash.”
Bee went on to demonstrate how those Fox News talking points have infected the real world, including actual hate crimes against Asian-Americans in recent days and weeks.
“These are not rare, isolated incidents,” she said. “They are ubiquitous, dangerous, and so pervasive, they prompted a CDC official to warn that being Asian is not a risk factor for the coronavirus. Unfortunately, the CDC then had to declare that being Asian is a risk factor for getting assaulted by racists.”
“COVID-19 is scary and it’s made even scarier because our government is mishandling this crisis and conservative media is using Asian people as scapegoats,” Bee continued. “The Trump administration is not going to save us. We have to take care of each other. It is not OK to mistreat people out of fear and panic, especially when we’re doing so many other stupid things out of fear and panic. I have spent the last week stockpiling beans and making my own hand sanitizer out of bleach and lube.”
For more, listen to Samantha Bee on The Last Laugh podcast.