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‘Treason finale’: Late-night hosts react to Capitol breach

They dropped the jokes Wednesday night and struck a sobering tone.

"The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert
"The Late Show" host Stephen ColbertCBS

Late-night hosts dropped the jokes Wednesday night and struck a sobering tone in response to the armed insurrection that occurred at the US Capitol earlier in the day when Trump supporters stormed the building, leading to the deaths of four people.

“I’ve rarely been as upset as I am tonight,” said Stephen Colbert, host of “The Late Show,” who opened with a monologue that addressed Republicans and members of Congress directly.

“Have you had enough? After five years of coddling this president’s fascist rhetoric, guess whose followers want to burn down the Reichstag?” Colbert continued: “Today the US Capitol was overrun for the first time since 1814 and a woman died. Who could have seen this coming? Everyone!”


Colbert expressed his horror, anger, and fury, calling Wednesday’s events the “most shocking, most tragic, least surprising thing” he’d ever seen.

He called Republicans cowards, and had a message for those who joined the president in trying to dismantle the results of the election: “If you let the president lie about our democracy over and over, and then join him in that lie and say he’s right when you know for a fact that he is not, there will be a terrible price to pay. But you just never thought you’d have to pay it, too.”

Colbert called out Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who was caught on camera raising his fist to the mob outside the Capitol.

“It’s like Black power but the opposite,” Colbert said. “And obviously he has to keep his fist closed, because if he opened it you’d see the blood on his hands.”

The late-night host then targeted Fox News. “You think maybe years of peddling his conspiracy theories had anything to do with this?” Colbert said, mocking the news network.

Jimmy Kimmel opened his show by welcoming viewers to the “treason finale” of the President Trump era.


“This is not the sort of thing I ever imagined would happen in this country in my lifetime,” Kimmel said. “The president of the United States — because he is too angry, insecure, and incompetent to deal with the fact that he lost an election ... turns an angry mob against members of Congress and his own vice president. Not to mention endangering the Capitol police — those blue lives he claims matter so much to him.”

He also singled out Senators Hawley and Ted Cruz for their part in the “election charade.”

“They lit these fires to start a war, just to distract us from the fact that Donald Trump lost the election,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel sarcastically regarded one moment from the riots: “Weirdly, the only respect that was shown was for the velvet ropes,” he said, as a video was shown of a group of rioters staying within the bounds of velvet ropes in the halls of the Capitol. “Maybe they should put those around the whole building and they’d stay out.”

Kimmel pointed out that police response was “very laid back” compared to the Black Lives Matter protests, with some officers taking selfies with rioters, and other “seeming to welcome them through the gate.”

“It was a terrible day in the history of this country,” Kimmel said.

Jimmy Fallon opened “The Tonight Show” by telling viewers “these are difficult times to do an entertainment show.”


He continued with a short, somber monologue, reassuring his audience “we’re going to be OK.”

“It’s times like this I think to myself, ‘How could this be happening?’ This is what happens when there’s no peaceful transition of power, and what happens when there’s bad leadership.”

Fallon said that if his grandfather were alive, who fought for the country, he’d be “disgusted.”

“Today wasn’t patriotism,” Fallon continued. “Today was terrorism.”

He lauded President-elect Joe Biden for his leadership following Wednesday’s events.

“I thought Biden said it best when he said we have to step it up. We’re at our best when we step it up,” Fallon said.

“Today was a disgrace, today was disappointing, but today was not a surprise,” Fallon continued. “I assure you, there are more good people than bad, and the good will prevail.”

Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follower her on Twitter @brittbowker.