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“The sadness just writes itself”: late-night hosts on Trump’s border separation policy

Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and other hosts are lining up to call Trump’s immigration policy heartless and immoral.

Aja Romano is a culture reporter for Vox, focusing on criticism and the ethics of culture. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot.

Late-night hosts including Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Jimmy Kimmel used their platforms Tuesday night to address the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border.

“This issue is not going away,” Noah said. “It’s like strip club glitter.”

Highlighting the growing bipartisan push to end the cruel policy, Noah criticized the president for listening to Fox News analysts instead of congressional Republicans. He called out Fox anchor Laura Ingraham’s disingenuous description of the metal enclosures where kids are being detained as “summer camps” and “boarding schools.”

“Was her family just dropping her off every June at state prison?” he quipped.

“The point is that the federal government is snatching kids away from their parents,” he continued. “If you kidnap someone’s kid but you keep them in a really nice basement, that’s still not okay.”

Meanwhile, Colbert turned his harshest criticism not on Fox, but on White House staffers who were directly enabling the policy.

After conflicting reports that press secretary Sarah Sanders had not wanted to do yesterday’s tense press briefing on the issue, Colbert encouraged her — and any other White House official who was uncomfortable with the policy — to leave the administration.

“So your administration owns locking up children. But if kids in cages is too much to defend, you could resign,” he said. “This is the White House, not an abandoned Walmart — you’re allowed to leave.”

The hosts joined Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers in delivering blistering calls for changes in the policy this week. Meyers’s Monday night “A Closer Look” segment was an 11-minute deconstruction of the policy, which he called “monstrous” and “morally repugnant,” while Fallon also made the issue the centerpiece of his Monday night monologue. In his Tuesday night monologue, however, he mentioned only that attorneys general from 22 states were calling on Trump to end the policy.

But while Fallon backed off the critical refrain, hearing comedians take the moral high ground against appalling acts of the administration seems to have become a routinized part of late night. Colbert acknowledged this, joking, “The sadness just writes itself.”

And while there’s something surreal about hearing Trevor Noah conclude his monologue with obvious statements like “separating kids from their parents is heartless,” it’s also apparent that they’re necessary — and that the leaders of late night have no intention of putting down their megaphones on this issue.