Late-night hosts Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and James Corden all devoted a few minutes of their Tuesday night shows to addressing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s controversial interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham in which he stated that the Civil War was a result of a “lack of compromise.”
On The Late Show, Colbert was quick to fire back at Kelly’s claim. “What do you mean there was a ‘lack of compromise?’” the Late Show host asked. Colbert then proceeded to direct questions to Kelly, “You’re a general and you don’t know why the Civil War happened? What do you think caused World War II? A zoning issue?”
Colbert then questioned whether he was failing to give Kelly the benefit of the doubt, “Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe a lack of compromise really was the heart of the Civil War.” He then read a mock letter from fake Confederate soldier Buford Nathaniel Jessup to his wife.
“The Union Army steadfastly refuses compromise,” Colbert reads, further explaining that they keep offering to only have slaves “Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” but that demand still isn’t met. Colbert, continuing to speak as the soldier, describes the frustration, saying, “They’re being total Nazis about this, which is weird because Nazis aren’t even a thing yet.”
Colbert also ventured another theory on why Kelly might’ve said what he did. “Maybe Kelly knows better and is just being willfully ignorant, because as the chief of staff, he’s now forced to defend the positions of an idiot.”
Meanwhile on Late Night With Seth Meyers, show writer Amber Ruffin took a “minute of fury” to argue against Kelly’s statement.
“Lack of compromise? That’s a strange way to pronounce ‘slavery,’” Ruffin began. She then commented on Kelly’s referring to General Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man.” “His army kidnapped free black people and sold them into slavery,” Ruffin said. “That is true. Not a lot of people know that, because they left that part out of the statues.”
Like Colbert, Ruffin read a mock letter written by a soldier, informing his wife that they are going to war as a result of failing to compromise even after offering to have “casual slavery Fridays,” where they “let the slaves wear flip-flops.”
Over on The Late Late Show With James Corden, the host ridiculed Kelly’s claim, arguing that the “compromise” wasn’t like “haggling over the price of a Honda Civic.”
Corden also took a jab at Kelly’s appearance, saying that the chief of staff may share sentiments with “honorable” General Lee.
“It’s not really a surprise that General Kelly would defend a defeated general, seeing that every time he’s photographed listening to Donald Trump, he looks like a defeated general.”
In a press conference held Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained that Kelly referred to Lee as an “honorable man” to assert that “history isn’t perfect.” Sanders also cited historian Shelby Foote, who defends Kelly’s “compromise” argument.
Kelly’s claim has spurred backlash, with Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Cedric Richmond saying that the chief of staff “needs a history lesson.”