Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stephen Colbert tries to act shocked at Bob Woodward's revelations of Trump's deadly COVID lies

Stephen Colbert, Bob Woodward
Stephen Colbert, Bob Woodward
Screenshot: The Late Show

Say what you want about famous (and hopefully repeat) taker-down of crooked, paranoid, and authoritarian Republican presidents Bob Woodward, but, this time, he’s got the receipts. Sure, the fact that those receipts—in the form of nearly 10 hours of irretrievably incriminating recorded interviews with Donald Trump—include a pre-lockdown confession that Trump knew full well how horror-film contagious COVID-19 is does prompt the question of why legendary journalist Woodward didn’t blow his book’s pre-release publicity by, you know, telling the rest of us. But, on Monday’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert raised that question only in passing, excusing his Pulitzer Prize-winning guest by claiming that, since we already knew Trump was a liar, playing recorded proof of that back in January concerning a disease that would go on to kill 200 thousand people and counting by September would only have, um, something.

Putting that bit of soft-pedaled questioning aside, what Woodward says now in the aftermath of his book Rage’s publication is, as Colbert sums it up, clear, fascinating, and heartbreaking. If you want to add “rage-inducing,” “historically actionable,” and “jaw-dropping, incontrovertible proof that America is being led by a truly stupid, amoral, and incompetent sociopath,” nobody outside the MAGA cult is going to object much. That’s because, as Colbert gets Woodward to lay out in their three segments, in the 19 recorded interviews Woodward did with Trump, the former host of a TV reality game show is laughably forthright in telling on himself.

There’s the January 28 meeting where Trump told Woodward that his National Security Advisor informed him that the coming pandemic would pose “the biggest national security threat to your presidency.” Meanwhile, Trump took his mobile hate rallies to Iowa on January 30, where he told his unmasked crowd “We have very little problem in this country at this moment—five. We think it’s going to have a very good ending for it.” Woodward has Trump on a February 7 recording admitting he knows “the virus is more deadly than even the strenuous flus,” while, in a February 26 briefing, Trump assured the public that coronavirus is “just an average flu.” (Thus freeing up all-American individualist nimrods everywhere to forego wearing a protective mask, something Trump still wasn’t wearing even at his recent, lemming-bait indoor Nevada rally.) And then there’s the portrait in courage provided by Trump’s humorous anecdote about the time he himself scurried out of the Oval Office when one of his advisors sneezed back in April, a conversation Woodward played for Colbert, in a Late Show throw-up-in-your-mouth exclusive.

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Even the legendarily dogged Woodward expressed bemusement at how willing Donald Trump was to tattle on himself for his murderously botched and self-serving response to the most dire heath crisis in recent American history. Noting that he took to hauling a recorder around at home since Trump was wont to just ring him up at home in the middle of the night, Woodward said, with obvious gratitude, “Nixon didn’t call.” (Referring to Trump’s night owl phone habits, Woodward also described Trump as “the night prowler,” which does sound appropriately like the nickname of a particularly prolific serial killer.) Telling Colbert that actually having Trump’s nocturnal ramblings on tape is especially illuminating of the man’s mind and character (both, so-called), saying that “the microphone is really like a microscope.” As when Trump, asked by Woodward is he can at least comprehend the tiniest scrap of what Black Lives Matter protesters are talking about in their actions against deadly systemic racism, Trump sneered at Woodward, in rich old white guy-ese, “Oh wow, you should hear yourself. You drank the Kool-Aid.”

There’s plenty more of that to discover in Colbert and Woodward’s conversation, like how everyone at the White House is busy throwing each other under various buses concerning just who let their boss talk—on tape—to Bob All The President’s Men Woodward for 9 hours and 41 minutes. That even though this is Woodward’s second book painting Trump as a selfish, amoral, racist buffoon. (Just paraphrasing.) And even though, after Woodward told Trump that he wasn’t going to like Rage any more than his previous Fear, Trump happily told the author, “I’ll get you on the next one.” Colbert and Woodward briefly speculated on what a third Trump book (meaning a second Trump presidential term) would be called, but neither came up with a single word simultaneously terse and apocalyptic enough. Your suggestions in the comments.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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