Following Donald Trump’s return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, late night hosts Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, James Corden and Trevor Noah delivered scorching blow-by-blows of the president’s handling of his own COVID-19 diagnosis over the past three days.
The hosts’ biggest critiques and jokes tended to center on the president’s numerous odd photo-ops, the sketchy public statements made by his team of doctors and the still-growing list of Republican senators and administration officials who have tested positive for COVID-19.
While some hosts recapped the weekend’s events starting with the president’s most recent tweets, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah opted to kick his own rundown off with the event that presumably began it all. Noah noted how Trump “flouted” safety guidelines during the Rose Garden party in support of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, ultimately resulting in a hot zone of COVID-19 diagnoses.
Much like the other late night hosts, Noah chalked up the president’s handling of his own diagnosis to his handling of it for the country. “Turns out while you spent the last seven months hugging your grandma through a giant condom, Trump and his friends are having no-mask cocktail receptions indoors, where the guest of honor is COVID-19,” Noah said. “And now, at least 30 people in Trump’s circle have tested positive for COVID-19.”
Noah then went on to contextualize just how large that cluster of confirmations is by comparing it to other countries’ confirmed cases. “There’s been more infections at the White House over the last day than in New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia combined,” Noah explained. “The White House Rose Garden is like the wet market of America right now.”
The Late Show host Stephen Colbert dubbed the Rose Garden event and all that followed as “The Infest Wing,” a play on Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed political drama The West Wing, before diving straight into the latest news around Trump’s departure from Walter Reed. Pointing to Trump’s tweet about refusing to let the virus “dominate” you, Colbert called the president a “tool” before declaring that they should just change the Surgeon General’s warning to, “Don’t let cancer dominate your lungs; smoking is cool because my lung transplant was successful.”
“You’re saying the people who lost their lives, they either didn’t have enough moxie, or they didn’t live in a big white house that has 20 full-time medical staff and get a chopper to a suite at Walter Reed, where they received a combination of cutting-edge treatments that literally no one else on the planet has received,” Colbert charged.
The Late Show host also directly took on the responses of Trump’s medical team, whose statements to the media were often conflicting and misleading about the president’s treatment. After the president’s physician Commander Sean Conley at one point declined on live TV to answer a reporter about “the specifics of his care,” Colbert demanded to know why Conley was even out there.
“I don’t get to say, ‘I’m not going to get into the specifics of my jokes tonight,’” Colbert explained. “And I don’t endanger the nation by doing my job poorly.”
During The Late Late Show cold opening, host James Corden also focused on Conley’s behavior, questioning the doctor’s excuse for failing to give reporters straight or possibly even truthful answers during his briefings. Responding to Conley’s statement that he wanted to reflect the “upbeat” attitude of Trump’s team and was trying not to give “any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction,” Corden declared no one should trust him.
“I don’t understand. Is the doctor worried that coronavirus is listening to this briefing?” Corden asked. “Nobody should trust that man as a physician.”
Corden then touched on two of the more heavily criticized publicity stunts by the Trump team over the weekend, including his photo ops inside the hospital room. The late night host shared how Twitter users had caught that a piece of paper Trump was signing to show he was still “hard at work” actually had nothing on it.
“People were mocking this online, which made Trump furious at his staffers,” Corden said. “He was like, ‘You guys told me these were military contracts written in invisible ink!’”
Corden took another swipe at Trump and the “irresponsibility” of his behavior over the weekend when he detailed the president’s decision to ride in a car with his Secret Service agents for a photo-op with his supporters outside Walter Reed. After noting that one physician tweeted, “The risk of COVID-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures,” Corden summed up the event by comparing it to how he calmed his son when he was a baby.
“I thought about this and I understand what’s going on here because when my son was a baby, sometimes we put him in the car, and I’d drive around the block to make him go off to sleep. I think that’s what’s going on here,” Corden joked. “I think they’re like, ‘Mr. President, you have to rest.’ He’s like ‘I can’t, it looks weak.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, there’s a rally outside. That’ll drop him off.'”
On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon’s cold open delivered a much shorter recap of the president’s past three days, with the late night host describing much of it as chaos. “What is happening?” Fallon asked. “Trump even turned a hospital stay into chaos. The Joker caused less trouble when he visited Gotham General.”
Centering most of his jokes on the president’s return to the White House Monday night, Fallon quipped that it was safe for Trump “mostly because everyone at the White House already has the virus” before saying the president’s staff “went all out” for his return with balloons resembling the coronavirus.
While taking on the Rose Garden event, which Fallon said had been dubbed the “Rose Garden Massacre” by social media, the late night host questioned why so many people were so tightly packed into such a small space. “By the way, could those seats be packed together any tighter? Even the CEO of Southwest is like, ‘Give them a little room.'”
Fallon was also one of the only hosts to touch on the response of Trump’s family to his hospitalization. Reading a statement provided by Donald Trump Jr., Fallon pointed out that even Trump’s son believed his father was acting “crazy.”
“You know things have gone off the rails when Don Jr. becomes the voice of reason,” Fallon said. “In response, President Trump was like, ‘I’m not acting crazy, and here’s 15 all-caps tweets to prove it.’”
Late Night host Seth Meyers, however, delivered the most biting summation of Trump’s three-day-long COVID-19 saga while tackling the president’s announcement over Twitter that he’d be leaving the hospital and that Americans shouldn’t let the virus “dominate your life.”
“Of course you can say get better from COVID. You have the best taxpayer-funded health care in the world,” Meyers said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Don’t be afraid to jump out of this plane,’ when you’re the only one with a parachute.”
After calling Trump and Republicans “brazen” in their lack of empathy, Meyers ended his “Closer Look” segment by recounting the past seven months of the president’s pandemic response. The late night host pointed specifically to the ways that Trump had “denied reality,” from claiming the virus would magically disappear to exposing himself and “lots of other people,” all so his allies could swiftly confirm a conservative super majority on the Supreme Court “to help them steal the election and destroy Obamacare.”
“Remember, he might get better from COVID, but he will never get better as a person,” Meyers concluded.