For many, former president George H.W. Bush’s state funeral Wednesday represented a time of reflection and remembrance. Moving eulogies were delivered, prayers were read and hymns were sung. But for late-night hosts, the somber event presented yet another opportunity to make fun of one of their favorite subjects: President Trump.
As The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reported, Trump did not receive a warm welcome when he and first lady Melania Trump arrived at Washington National Cathedral, engaging in a “plainly uncomfortable” encounter as they took their seats alongside the Obamas, Clintons and Carters. Of the six former presidents and first ladies sitting in that first row, Trump has publicly insulted all but Rosalynn Carter.
The tension was not lost on several TV comics, including Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Dulcé Sloan of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah."
“It was like all of America’s divorced parents together in the same room for the first time,” Kimmel quipped after playing a clip of the Trumps exchanging terse greetings with Barack and Michelle Obama. Melania Trump also briefly shook hands with Bill Clinton, but Trump did not.
Kimmel specifically directed his audience’s attention to the reactions of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“Watch the look from Michelle Obama, because it is so frosty she may have reversed global warming right there,” Kimmel said. “Hillary is just staring straight ahead like she’s on an elevator with a weirdo.”
On his CBS show, Colbert also played a video showing the first row before the Trumps arrived. The former presidents and first ladies could be seen smiling and, as Colbert described it, “chatting comfortably with one another.”
“Then, it became silent staring time,” Colbert said, as footage of a markedly less jovial scene that included the Trumps filled the screen. “Donald Trump is the only person in the world who can bring down a funeral.”
The uncomfortable moment left Sloan, speaking on behalf of Trevor Noah who is on vocal rest, overwhelmed.
“Good Lord, I need a drink just looking at that photo,” she said referencing an image of the stone-faced U.S. leaders sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the row. A mute Noah could only take a deep breath and shake his head in mock bewilderment.
“That funeral was so awkward, and that was before Trump started roasting everybody,” Sloan said, proceeding to play an edited video of the funeral in which the president hurled previously stated insults about his seatmates.
Beyond Trump’s chilly reception, Colbert and Kimmel also poked fun at the Bush family’s promise to the president that he would not be criticized during Wednesday’s service. Just three months ago, anti-Trump sentiments abounded at John McCain’s funeral, which the president did not attend.
Colbert joked that the Bushes also assured Trump “the choir would drown out the sound of other ex-presidents rolling in their graves.” On ABC, Kimmel chose to read aloud a list of unflattering Trump nicknames, many of which are not suitable for print, that he said “the Bush family respectfully requested” be avoided by anyone speaking at the funeral.
Despite the assurances, Colbert said it appeared that the people eulogizing the late president may have managed to get in some thinly veiled digs at Trump.
During the service, Bush was remembered by former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney as “a genuine leader. One that was distinguished, resolute and brave.”
Bush’s biographer Jon Meacham said the late president’s “life code” was to “tell the truth, don’t blame people.”
Playing a clip of CNN’s coverage of the funeral during which the network’s chief political analyst Gloria Borger said, “it sounds anti-Trump, but it isn’t necessarily,” Colbert bluntly retorted, “Nah, kinda is.”
“As soon as you start praising someone’s honesty, you’re automatically throwing shade at Donald Trump,” he said.
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