The below is a transcript of Seth Meyers’ opening remarks from “Late Night” on Monday, August 14th, 2017:
On Saturday, there was yet another terror attack on American soil. This one was allegedly perpetrated by a white supremacist named James Fields against a group of protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia. He drove his car into a crowd and killed a woman named Heather Heyer. It was a horrifying incident that left most of the country stunned and terrified, but on Saturday you didn’t hear her name or the terrorist’s name or even the word “terrorist” from our president. What you heard instead was this:
TRUMP: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”
“On many sides”? If that choice of words made you feel sick to your stomach, the good news is you’re a normal and decent person. The jury is still out on the President, as he initially refused to condemn the white supremacist
movement in this country.
Now, he did read a statement at the White House on Monday that finally struck the right tone, but I’m sorry. Pencils-down on this subject was Saturday evening. He only gets very partial credit.
Some ignored it or played it down when Donald Trump claimed our first black president wasn’t born in this country. It was racist and insane, but he was written off as a clown, a bitter little man who didn’t know an American could have a name like Barack Obama.
Then he called Mexicans rapists during the speech announcing his candidacy. He called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” Then he brought Steve Bannon to the White House with him, worked to take away voting rights from black people and hammered away at the idea that Chicago was a wasteland because of the violent black people living there. And now white supremacists and American Nazis are visible and energetic and demonstrative in a way we have not seen in our lifetimes.
Donald Trump did not immediately denounce the white supremacist movement when given the chance. And whether he knows it or not, many of those people see him as leading that movement. The leader of our country is called a president because he is supposed to preside over our society. His job is to lead, to cajole, to scold, to correct our path, to lift up what is good about us and to absolutely and unequivocally and immediately condemn what is evil in us. And if he does not do that, if he does not preside over our society, then he is not a president. You can stand for a nation or you can stand for a hateful movement. You can’t do both. And if you don’t make the right choice, I am confident that the American voter will.