Orlando Shooting: Late-Night Hosts Respond to Tragedy

8:24 AM 6/14/2016

by Hilary Lewis and Lorena O'Neil

Some (Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah) were visibly angry while others (Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon) seemed more saddened by the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Jimmy Fallon Samantha Bee Larry Wilmore Screenshot Split H 2016
Screenshot/The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/Full Frontal with Samantha Bee/The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore/You Tube

Nearly 48 hours after it happened, the Orlando shooting was the first topic of discussion for the major network and cable late-night hosts on the Monday editions of their shows.

Samantha Bee, Conan O'Brien, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore, James Corden and Seth Meyers all started their programs by commenting on the tragedy that left 50 people dead, including the gunman, and 53 more injured.

While Bee and Noah seemed visibly angry and O'Brien insisted that "weapons of war ... have no place in civilian life," Colbert and Fallon took a more somber approach, visibly saddened and sullenly frustrated by the incident.

Read on to see how each of the hosts responded to the shooting.

  • Samantha Bee

    Standing alone onstage wearing all-black, Bee referenced the common TV approach for responding to such an incident: "After a massacre, the standard operating procedure is that you will stand on stage and deliver some well-meaning words about how we will get through this together, how love wins, how love conquers hate and that is great, that is beautiful."

    But she couldn't just do that: "F— it. I am too angry for that. Love does not win unless we start loving each other enough to fix our f—ing problems."

    Bee then tore into the shooter and his "terrible mirror selfies" ("Let this be a lesson, ladies. If someone's Tinder profile is just mirror selfies, they're definitely a murderer."), the "vulnerability in our gun laws," how Florida politicians responded to the shooting ("If only shooting victims could dodge bullets as deftly as you dodged that question.") and those who say the best thing people can do is pray.

    She also called for getting rid of the AR-15 guns like the one used in Orlando and other mass shootings. "We can't constitutionally get rid of all guns but can't we get semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians? 'Sam Bee wants to take your guns away.' Yes, the ones that mow down a room full of people in seconds. Yes, I do want to take those guns away."

  • Conan O'Brien

    Conan O'Brien did away with jokes at the top of his show to take a few minutes to condemn the shooting and, in what's an unusual course of action for the host, voice some political thoughts about gun-control.

    "I am not a pundit, I am not an expert and always made it a policy to stick to my job, and keep my opinions to myself. I have really tried very hard over the years not to bore you with what I think," the late-night veteran said. "However I am the father of two, and I like to believe I have a shred of common sense and I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semi automatic assault rifle. These are weapons of war and they have no place in civilian life.

  • Trevor Noah

    On Comedy Central's Daily Show, Trevor Noah angrily voiced his frustration at the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.  “We shouldn’t allow this to be normal," he said. "We shock, we mourn, we change our profile pics and we move on." Noah noted that the press briefing room Obama spoke from is named after a victim of gun violence and that the president has had more speeches on gun violence than state dinners during his eight years as president. He also took on the government's reluctance to impose restrictions on access to guns, pointing out that after 9/11, the U.S. imposed security measures making it more difficult to carry out a terrorist attack using an airplane. "What we didn't do was say, 'Oh, this has nothing to do with airplanes."

  • Larry Wilmore

    Larry Wilmore called out Donald Trump and other Republican politicians when he addressed the Orlando shooting on his show.

    He told the LGBT community that "our hearts are broken for you but we are with you," and then went on to talk about how Americans were "united in a selfless outpouring of support" for the Orlando victims and their families. "Well it was selfless except for one person. Cue the tweet from future impeached President Donald Trump, please."

    "Honestly who brags about this?" added Wilmore, addressing Trump's comments about "being right on radical Islamic terrorism." Wilmore continued to criticize Trump's comments about immigration and requesting Obama resign. Then, he set his sights on other Republican politicians like Rick Scott, saying that Scott worked hard to avoid saying the word "gay."

    "Just saying the word doesn't make you gay," joked Wilmore. "It's not 'Beetlejuice.'"

    "Let's be clear," said Wilmore, "It was first and foremost an attack on an American minority group." He added that if the Charleston shooting in a black church forced politicians to take down Confederate flags, then "a massacre at a gay club should force them to wave rainbow flags."

    Wilmore also hosted a panel about the shooting.

  • Jimmy Fallon

    Jimmy Fallon also opened his show without any fanfare and instead stood in front of the Tonight Show curtain and searched for answers or lessons in the tragedy while also providing the people of Orlando with hope.

    After recapping the news of the shooting, saying it was the largest loss of life on U.S. soil from a terrorist attack since 9/11, Fallon suggested that the U.S. needs to get back to its roots as a country that accepts a diversity of views.

    "This country was built on the idea that we do not all agree on everything," he said. "That we are a tolerant, free nation that encourages debate, free-thinking, believing, or not, in what you choose."

    He also shared his personal struggle in how to approach the issue with his children. "I, as a new father, am thinking, 'What do I tell my kids? What do I tell them about this. What can we learn from this? What if my kids are gay? What do I tell them?'"

    "Maybe there's a lesson from all of this, a lesson in tolerance," Fallon said. "We need to support each other's differences and worry less about our own opinions. Get back to debate and away from believing or supporting the idea that if somebody doesn't live the way you want them to live, you just buy a gun and kill them. Bomb them up. That is not okay."

    He continued: "This was just one bad guy here. Forty-nine good people, and one bad guy. And there will always be more good than evil. When I think of Orlando, I think of nothing but fun and joy and families. If anyone can do it, you can. Keep loving each other, keep respecting each other, and keep on dancing.”

  • Stephen Colbert

    Stephen Colbert, who opened his show with somber remarks about the shooting, also took note of how common and predictable the responses to such incidents have become.

    “Naturally, we each ask ourselves what can you possible say in the face of this horror,” he said. “Then sadly you realize you know what to say because it’s been said too many times before. You have a pretty good idea of what most people are going to say. You know what a president, whoever it is, will probably say. You know what both sides of the political aisle will say. You know what gun manufacturers will say. Even me, with a silly show like this, you have some idea of what I will say. Because even I have talked about this when it has happened before. It’s as if there’s a national script that we have learned. And I think by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time. With nothing changing. Except for the loved ones and the families of the victims for whom nothing will ever be the same.”

    While he admitted he didn't "know what to do," he urged his viewers to "do something" and embrace the fact that "love is a verb."

    “I don’t know what to do,” Colbert said. “But I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything. Now these people in Orlando were apparently targeted for who they love. And there have been outpourings of love throughout the country and around the world. Love in response to hate. Love does not despair. Love makes you strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives up hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script. So love your country, love your family, love the families and the victims and the people of Orlando. But let’s remember, love is a verb. And to love means to do something.”

  • Seth Meyers

    Seth Meyers introduced his show on Monday with a "closer look" segment on the Orlando shooting and gun control.

    First, Meyers pointed out that, "amid the horrific scenes of carnage and grief there were also tremendous outpourings of compassion and goodwill." He referenced the long lines at blood banks, the record-breaking fundraising for the victims by Equality Florida and the free counseling offered to LGBT people.

    Meyers said that the Orlando shooter was "fueled by bigotry and hatred" and apparently inspired by ISIS, but Meyers wanted to focus on the weapon he used. "What allowed him to kill so many people on Sunday was his gun," said Meyers.

    "When given a chance, Congress consistently chooses nothing as a course of action," said Meyers, showing video of Obama talking about what it means if the U.S. chooses to do nothing about gun control yet again. The Late Night host rattled off facts about gun control, including how more gun availability leads to more homicides, calling this so obvious it's like saying "where there's more white people there's more brunch."

    Finally, he set his sights on Trump's "appreciate the congrats on being right" response. Meyers said, "I don't know who has been congratulating Donald Trump but you may want to redirect your response to the first responders or those waiting in line to give blood."

  • James Corden

    James Corden was fresh off hosting the Tonys this weekend and on Monday he recapped how wonderful the night was. He also reflected on what a tough day Sunday had been because of the shooting, and said it was incredible to be amongst the Broadway community that is "so welcoming to the LGBT community."

    He said that in contrast to the "horrific and so heartbreaking" news, he thought about the person who made 3,000 silver ribbons for everybody to wear at the Tonys in honor of the Orlando victims. "It's just a sign of reaching your hands out to anybody who had been affected."

    Corden was touched by Lin-Manuel Miranda's "love is love is love" sonnet and he read Frank Langella's speech about letting something bad either define, destroy or strengthen people. "We will be with you every step of the way," said Langella at the awards. "I thought it was an amazing thing to say," said Corden, adding that it is what everyone at the Tonys feels and what everyone at the Late Late Show feels. "We are with you every step of the way," he repeated.