There were two key talking points that came out of Trump’s Wednesday press conference.
The first was the shift in tone he used when talking about the coronavirus, which gave the address a much more somber air than we’re typically used to.
The second was his incredibly breezy response to a question about Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently facing charges for sex trafficking after she was arrested by the FBI earlier in the month.
“I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach,” said Trump, who has previously been photographed with Maxwell and her close associate Jeffrey Epstein, who died in jail last year while awaiting trial on his own charges of sex trafficking. “But I wish her well, whatever it is.”
“I wish her well.” As you can probably guess, that sentence – which Trump said twice – raised more than a few eyebrows, not least of all from pretty much all the late night talk show hosts.
Here’s Stephen Colbert, for instance, expression disbelief at the president’s choice of words (skip to 5:00 in the clip below).
“He wishes her well?” said Colbert. “So, okay, if you’re keeping score at home: If you’re accused of spray-painting a statue of a confederate soldier, you’re human scum who should be billy clubbed in the trachea. But if you’re accused of recruiting middle schoolers to be sexually assaulted by millionaires, you get a greeting card.”
Colbert went on to talk about Trump saying he knew Maxwell, playing a clip of the president’s “I guess they lived in Palm Beach” quote.
“I guess they lived in Palm Beach,” mimicked Colbert, putting on his best Trump voice, “And I’m saying ‘I guess’ even though I already said I saw her a lot because we all lived in Palm Beach, and I’m just wondering if I say it kind of softly and casually, will I sound less panicky? Is it working? No? Anyway, let’s just get back to a more comfortable subject: I let 140,000 people die and I wish them well.”
Meanwhile, Daily Show host Trevor Noah made a similar point about Trump’s selective criticism (4:10).
“Okay, so just to recap: Colin Kaepernick? Son of a bitch. Accused child sex trafficker? ‘I wish her well.’ This is the one time when nobody would have been upset if Trump had used one of his trademark insults,” said Noah. “Instead, this is the time that Trump chooses to suddenly become a feminist?”
Fallon also took some jabs at Trump during his Tonight Show monologue (3:00).
“Later on, Trump had everyone sign a Hallmark sympathy card that said ‘Sorry for your sex trafficking arrest.’,” the host said, after watching the press conference clip in disbelief.
“Right after he finished, Trump’s staff was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is why we stopped doing these.'”
Finally, Seth Meyers also drew attention to the ridiculousness of Trump’s comments (1:00).
“Check-mate, Joe Biden!” the Late Night host remarked, after playing the clip. “Just like the Trump team drew it up on the chalk board, in front of millions of Americans, the president publicly sent well-wishes to an alleged sex trafficker, while reminding everyone he’s been friends with her for years.
“I mean, you just can’t teach that kind of political talent. Now all Trump has to do is sit back and watch the votes roll in.”