On Monday’s episode of the Tonight Show, host and Sagaponack resident Jimmy Fallon broke from his usual apolitical stance to speak out against the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, and to scold President Donald Trump for taking two days to denounce them.
For those living under a rock, here’s what happened in a nutshell: A large gathering of white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and others from the Alt-Right movement descended upon Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally on Saturday to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park. Counter-protestors demonstrated against the white nationalists and other hate groups, and things began to get violent, eventually leading to a white supremacist to ram his car into a crowd of counter-protestors—killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Following this tragedy, President Trump condemned the violence and bigotry “on many sides,” rather than naming the hate groups, including those marching with Nazi flags, which make up a significant part of his support base. Two days later, after a nationwide surge of fury over his remarks, the President finally called out the various groups by name. But for many Americans, it was too little, too late. Fallon is among them.
“Even though the Tonight Show isn’t a political show, it’s my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being,” Fallon said during his opening monologue, which didn’t contain a single joke on Monday. “What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia was just disgusting,” he continued, describing his horror of seeing Nazi flags and torches and hate while his innocent daughters, ages 2 and 4, played in the next room. “I was sick to my stomach.”
Describing how troubled he was at the idea of having to explain such hatred to his children, Fallon added, “As kids grow up, they need people to look up to, to show them what’s right and good. They need parents and teachers, and they need leaders who appeal to the best in us.”
With “leaders” as a cue, Fallon then turned the focus specifically to Trump. “The fact that it took the President two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful—and I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something,” he said, noting, “It’s important for everyone, especially white people in this country, to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it.”
A clearly emotional Fallon ended his remarks by saying, “We all need to stand against what is wrong, acknowledge that racism exists and stand up for what is right and civil, and kind…we can’t go backward.”
Later in the show, Fallon interviewed British actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, who is nominated for an Emmy for his role in The Night Of on HBO. Ahmed shared a rap/poem called “Sour Times,” which was quite apropos after Saturday’s events. “I wrote this piece 10 years ago, and every year I keep hoping it will become irrelevant, but it seems to become more and more relevant, sadly,” Ahmed told Fallon. Watch it below.