Late Night Hosts Take on Iowa Caucus Debacle: "How Did You Beef This?"

Stephen Colbert on The Late Show CBS, Seth Meyers on Late Night NBC and Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live - Publicity stills - Split - H 2019
Courtesy of Networks

'The Late Show's' Stephen Colbert explained that Iowa became "so thoroughly caucus-blocked" because volunteers were supposed to report the results using a new smartphone app, though "most elderly volunteers had a hard time downloading it onto their garage door openers."

Late-night hosts took on the Iowa caucus debacle during Tuesday's episodes of their shows.

Following inconsistencies with data and technical glitches on an app designed to count the votes, the Democratic results from Monday's first contest of the 2020 presidential election were delayed, with only partial results released Tuesday afternoon.

In a segment called "Io-What the Hell," The Late Show's Stephen Colbert joked that "cable news anchors looked like they were drowning" while waiting to report the winner.

"This is the most important election of our lifetimes. And on day one, the Democrats down in Des Moines shank it," said the host. "They can't even count farmers holding their hands up in a high school gym."

Colbert added that this was "not the first Iowa cluster-cauc," because there was also a virtual tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election.

He explained that Iowa became "so thoroughly caucus-blocked" because volunteers were supposed to report the results using a new smartphone app, though "most elderly volunteers had a hard time downloading it onto their garage door openers."

While the app reportedly had coding issues, many volunteers also had problems downloading and logging into it because they weren't properly trained. "Just like in all previous Iowa caucuses, staff were only trained to set up folding chairs and say, 'Please refrain from licking the butter sculptures,'" joked Colbert.

The host said that Sanders didn't say he won, though he shared an "optimistic message" with his supporters. A clip showed Sanders telling his supporters that he had a feeling the results would soon be announced. "I also have a strong feeling that the sun will come out tomorrow," added Colbert while doing an impression of Sanders.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was revealed that Pete Buttigieg had "a narrow lead with 62 percent of precincts reporting." The host responded, "24 hours later, the Iowa Democratic party was proud to announce they are almost two-thirds competent."

A clip followed of Buttigieg announcing the news to his supporters. "That's like the 49ers coming out in the second half and going, 'The majority of the quarters are in and they show our team winning 20-10,'" the host joked.

"Some people say that this debacle is gonna end the Iowa caucus, but others are more optimistic and say it's gonna end Iowa," concluded Colbert.

Colbert shared a solution for the app crashing in a fake ad for a new voting technology called "Papr."

The ad showed a voter stating "Buttigieg" to a piece of paper. "Don't talk to paper. Just write it down," said the narrator. After the voter began to poke at the paper, the narrator told him that "it's not a touchscreen."

Another confused voter tried to charge the paper while the first voter called his grandmother and asked how to use the product.

The mock ad concluded by stating that the paper "also works in airplane mode."

Over on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the ABC host joked that "the Iowa caucus is the only thing that happens all year in Iowa, and still, they didn't get it right."

"Why they used an app, I have no idea," said Kimmel. "I watch these caucuses. The average age of the participants is probably in the mid-Bernie Sanders."

Donald Trump responded to the debacle on Twitter by writing, "It Is Not the Fault of Iowa. It is the Do Nothing Democrats fault. As long as I am President, Iowa will stay where it is."

"Was there talk of moving Iowa?" asked the host. "Did Iowa decide to retire and move to Florida?"

Kimmel added that it looked like Buttigieg and Sanders were the top two contenders from the caucus. "Both lead characters from the movie Up won the Iowa caucus tonight," joked Kimmel.

The host later spoke with a caucus coordinator, played by Fred Willard, to discuss the results. After taking a nap on the ballots, Willard assured Kimmel that counting the votes "couldn't be better." When asked who was leading, Willard said that it was "Pete Booty-giggle." He added that he wasn't allowed to count Sanders' vote because "he's my grandpa."

Late Night's Seth Meyers discussed the caucus on a segment called "Hey!"

"Hey! Iowa, how did you beef this?" began Meyers. "You had four years to get ready and this is the result? This is worse than the husband that comes home on Valentine's Day with a flower from your neighbor's yard, a bag of skittles and a card that says, 'Sorry for your loss.'"

Meyers criticized the caucus process for being "old-fashioned" and said "it's like the musical chairs meets debate class meets a slow gas leak."

"You can't take an outmoded system and fix it with an app. Some things are too old for modern solutions," he added. "When Grandma starts having trouble getting around, you don't buy her a Razor scooter."

Meyers called out Buttigieg for tweeting that "by all indications" he won before the results were announced. "There were no indications and no one was victorious yet," the host said. "At the end of the third quarter of the Super Bowl, the 49ers didn't tweet, 'By all indications we are going to Disney World!'"

Jimmy Fallon opened The Tonight Show by poking fun at the caucus. "Based on zero percent of the vote, I’m declaring myself the winner of Iowa!" he began.

"People are still talking about last night’s Iowa caucuses. It was being called the Super Bowl of politics, but it ended up being called the Fyre Festival," he continued. "I was waiting to see Ja Rule on CNN."

Fallon added that the "technical issues made for a long night in Iowa without a winner." He continued, "We haven’t seen that many confused white people since they first tried to dab."

"You could tell Iowa was having trouble counting votes. At one point, they called Florida for help," Fallon joked.

The host later criticized Iowa for messing up despite having four years to prepare. "If NBC can count votes for The Voice, then Iowa should be able to do it for a presidential election," he said.

After explaining that the company behind the app is called Shadow, Fallon shared that Buttigieg's team had paid the company to do work for them in the past. "All day, the hashtag 'Mayor Cheat' was trending on Twitter. Democrats were furious. Even Mike Bloomberg was like, 'How dare you try to buy this election!"' the host said.

Fallon also took on the persona of caucus secretary Shawn Sebastian, who's live call-in to CNN went viral after a state party hotline took him off an hourlong hold and then hung up on him while he was being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer.

After Blitzer called to get an update on the caucus, a frantic Fallon as Sebastian explained that the "nifty new app" had crashed. "Everyone's worried about the election getting hacked, so hey, why not go with an app?" he said.

Fallon explained that while he tried to report the votes, the app wouldn't let him because he had to download iOS 13, which he couldn't do on his iPhone 6.

"Then it said that I needed to reset my iCloud password by telling it my mom's first pet's maiden name," he explained. "The app froze because we never friggin' tested it! Five people is not a dry run, Cheryl."

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah joked that Iowa should have expected the problems with the app because "the average age of the party leadership is 85 years old." The host joked, "The only thing they know about apps is that you get one for free with the early bird special."

Prior to the caucus, the head of Iowa's Democratic party ensured voters that the app would work and told an interviewer that they were prepared. "This is the most prepared you've ever been as a party?" asked Noah. "What would have happened if you didn't prepare? 'Bad news, everyone. The app automatically changed all of the votes to the Geico lizard, so he's our nominee now.'"

Noah also criticized the caucus process. "It's like a high school dance without the possibility of a hand job," he said.

"The Iowa caucuses were a mess and it never would have happened if the Democrats didn't try to rely on that new fancy app," said the host. "Luckily there's another hot new solution that just came out of Silicon Valley that can fix voting forever." A mock ad promoting a paper ballot followed that explained its "cutting-edge technology."