On Wednesday, late-night hosts addressed the previous day’s killing of eight people, including six Asian women, by a 21-year-old white man who targeted Asian spas in Atlanta. “This is truly horrifying,” said Trevor Noah, a tragedy made even more painful by the police’s hesitance to say the crime was motivated by racism.
According to Georgia police, the shooter blamed his actions on “sex addiction” and was looking to take out “temptations”, an excuse for which Noah had zero patience. “Fuck you, man. You killed six Asian people. Specifically, you went there,” he said. “Your murders speak louder than your words.”
“What makes it even more painful is that we saw it coming,” the Daily Show host continued. “We see these things happening. People have been warning, people in the Asian communities have been tweeting, they’ve been saying, ‘Please help us. We’re getting punched in the streets. We’re getting slurs written on our doors.’ We’ve seen this happening.”
And yet still, he added, police and media focus on the personhood of the shooter instead of addressing and condemning the anti-Asian rhetoric – Trump calling the coronavirus “kung-flu”, for example – which has fostered dangerous hate and contributed to spikes in violence against Asian Americans. “Why are people so invested in solving the symptoms instead of the cause? America does this time and time again,” Noah said.
“Racism, misogyny, gun violence, mental illness, and, honestly, this incident might have been all of those things combined,” he continued. “Because it doesn’t have to be one thing on its own – America is a rich tapestry of mass shooting motivations.
“Whatever you do, please don’t tell me that this thing had nothing to do with race,” he added. “You can’t disconnect this violence from the racial stereotypes that people attach to Asian women.
“This guy blamed a specific race of people for his problems and then murdered them because of it. If that’s not racism, then the word has no meaning.”
Noah called on viewers to donate to organizations supporting Asian Americans, work with anti-racism organizations, do what one can to “create an environment where we’re not letting specific people be targeted because of the color of their skin”, he said. “Because the truth is, we could see this coming.”
On the Late Show, Stephen Colbert also criticized Atlanta police for echoing the shooter’s claim that his targeting of Asian spas wasn’t motivated by race. “Why should we believe him? He’s a murderer,” Colbert said. “And the fact is, six Asian women are dead at a time when that community is already living under a cloud of fear.
“In moments like this, I never know what to say, other than our hearts go out to everyone struck by this terrible tragedy,” he continued. “Because I don’t have any answers. Not immediately. The only answer that comes to mind is a simple but strangely difficult one these days, and that’s not to hate each other. To recognize our common humanity. To acknowledge that we’re a nation of immigrants who might believe different things.
“We might not look the same, but we’re all Americans, he added. “We share a common belief that all men are created equal, and it is that belief itself that makes people want to come here.”
Outside the shooter, the Atlanta spa shootings were “in large part due to racist and xenophobic rhetoric spread by incompetent leaders”, said Samantha Bee on Full Frontal. The crime was “an active hate that demands action” and “a terrifying reminder of the dangers women and especially women of color face just by living their lives”.
It also connected to her prepared subject of the evening: the killing of Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old woman kidnapped as she walked home from a friend’s apartment at night in south London. A police officer has been arrested for the killing, which sparked an outpouring of anger over violence against women and an examination of how we respond to it – “specifically, why is it always on women to protect ourselves from violence and not on the men who perpetrate that violence,” Bee explained.
Following Everard’s disappearance, police went door-to-door instructing women to stay inside for their own safety, and disrupted a peaceful vigil with arrests.
“Again, the answer to violence by a police officer is not more violence by police officers,” said Bee. The Met’s actions make the police “appear more interested in restricting women’s freedom than stopping men’s violence”.
And on Late Night, Seth Meyers investigated conflicting messages over the coronavirus vaccine at Fox News. With Trump out of office, the network has been “lurching from one dumb culture war issue to the next”, he said, pointing to recent rants on Dr Seuss, the Looney Tunes, “cancel culture” and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s performance of WAP at the Grammys.
Since criticism of Biden’s popular coronavirus stimulus bill isn’t sticking, he continued, Fox News has moved on to blasting Biden for not giving Trump enough credit for the vaccine. “Although there seems to be some tension over whether Trump deserves credit for this miraculous medical breakthrough that will save the world, or whether the vaccines are actually part of a sinister plot to do … something bad, it’s not clear what,” said Meyers.
“But don’t worry, human catamaran Tucker Carlson is on the case,” Meyers added before cutting to a clip in which Carlson sowed doubt over the vaccine with a series of misleading, easily Google-able questions.