Jimmy Fallon took a sharp left turn on his late night show Monday night with an opening monologue addressing the events in Charlottesville over the weekend.
“Even though ‘The Tonight Show’ isn’t a political show, it is my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being,” he began.
Unrest in the college town between white supremacists and counter-protesters resulted in the death of a woman — Heather Heyer, 32 — and several others injured after a vehicle plowed into a crowd. 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. was arrested in connection with the fatal crash.
“What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, was just disgusting. I was watching the news like everyone else, and you’re seeing Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists, and I was sick to my stomach,” Fallon said as he became clearly emotional.
This is quite a departure for Fallon, who often goes for comedy and for the absurd and silly over addressing serious current events. After his now infamous interview with then-presidential candidate Trump — where he ruffled his hair instead of addressing many of his more insulting comments — he defended it saying that he never goes “hard” with guests.
Since the inauguration, Fallon has taken to talking about current events and politics more often, especially in monologues, but it was still kept to the background, behind games with guests and easy-going interviews.
But in this monologue, he called out Trump, who took two days to release a proper statement on the events. The President originally tweeted, condemning the violence “on many sides.”
Fallon referred to his daughters — who are 2 and 4 — and how they need strong leaders who bring out the best in them and stand up against racist behavior. Even though he and his children are white, he said that it’s especially important to speak out against racist behavior.
“The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful,” Fallon continued. “And I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. 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.”
Later, Fallon asked guest Riz Ahmed to perform a spoken-word version of his song “Sour Times,” which is about extremism, his experiences with Islam and living in modern times.
“I wrote this piece 10 years ago and every year I keep hoping it’ll become irrelevant but it seems to become more and more relevant, sadly,” Ahmed said.