For roughly eight minutes during Thursday’s taping of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” the studio was noticeably bereft of the raucous laughter that usually accompanies the South African comedian’s joke-heavy commentary on the day’s biggest headlines.
“I find Trump’s most powerful tool is that he knows how to wield victimhood,” he said.
In an impassioned, unscripted monologue that was not part of Thursday’s broadcast, Noah called out Trump for trying to “convince men that they are the true victims of the #MeToo movement.” The president has used the tactic to defend his Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, who faces several allegations of sexual misconduct. The judge has denied those allegations.
Noah’s spontaneous remarks came as he interacted with his studio audience during a break in taping, and the clip was later aired as part of the show’s Emmy Award-winning, online-only series “Between the Scenes.”
“Feeling is often times more powerful than what’s actually happening,” Noah said. “That’s a thing that people take for granted with Donald Trump. It’s his greatest gift, it’s his greatest danger.”
On Tuesday, Trump spoke to reporters outside the White House and said, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of,” The Washington Post reported. When asked if he had a message for women, the president responded, “women are doing great,” according to pool reports. Hours later, he would mock Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women accusing Kavanaugh, in front of hundreds at a rally in Mississippi.
Trump, who experienced his own brush with #MeToo, has continuously backed Kavanaugh and openly criticized the movement. A procedural vote in the Senate to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination is expected to take place Friday.
After watching Trump in these moments, Noah said he came to a realization.
Trump’s statements carry more weight than many people may realize, Noah cautioned.
“There are a lot of men who that message will connect with because that’s a feeling that many men have,” he said. “There’s many men who will be afraid to admit it maybe, but there’s many men who do have that feeling where they’re like, ‘Yeah, I mean this #MeToo movement, it’s gotten outta control.'”
Noah scoffed at the idea that the movement poses a threat to all men.
“It’s maybe what, a hundred and something people? That’s how many people have been ‘#MeToo’d?'” he asked incredulously. “That’s how many people have been held accountable? A hundred and something? That’s not a life changing number of men. They make it sound like all men have been accused.”
He added, drawing a rare burst of laughter, “You could fit a hundred men into a comedy club and then Louis C.K. could come and surprise them. That’s how few that number is.”
But the moment of levity was brief. Noah’s serious tone returned as he explained how convincing men that they are victims is a “powerful tool.”
“If you can convince men that they are the true victims of the #MeToo movement, you get men to fight against a movement that’s really about holding men who are doing bad things accountable as opposed to making all men scapegoats for something that they’re not doing,” he said.
Trump, Noah said, has wielded victimhood on a number of occasions beyond the national debate on sexual assault.
“He goes, ‘The real victim in this story is not the kids in the cages, it’s you. It’s you who they’re coming to take your place,'” Noah said. “‘The real victim isn’t the refugee from Syria, it’s you who’s gonna get blown up by a terrorist bomb.'”
The comedian noted that he’s seen the same thing happen in his home country of South Africa, referencing the country’s post-Apartheid climate.
“You had tons of white people who were like, ‘Oh, I’m afraid now, what’s gonna happen to me, huh?'” he said, his eyes going wide as his voice became high-pitched and frantic. “‘The black people are going to eat us. We’re in danger. They’re going to come for us. Oh my God, I’m the real victim.'”
Now, Noah said, Trump is attempting to paint Kavanaugh as a victim.
“The guy’s heading to the Supreme Court, but he’s making it like, ‘This poor man, look at him this poor man,'” he said, slipping easily into his well-practiced Trump impersonation.
“What’s the worst that could happen to Brett Kavanaugh?” Noah asked, returning to his normal voice. “The worst thing that could happen is he’d go back to being a federal judge on one of the most important courts in the land. That’s what he goes down to if he fails.”
Ford, on the other hand, won’t be nearly as lucky, he said.
“I’m heartbroken at what happened to Dr Ford, not because it didn’t go the way I would’ve maybe wanted it to, but rather because her life and her image, her as a human being has been trodden on and destroyed by the president of the United States.”