Television felt different Monday night.
“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” — a show usually reserved for jokes about current events and celebrity interviews — took on a somber tone Monday night.
Host Stephen Colbert returned to the airwaves to address the mass protests sweeping across the United States following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of police officers in Minnesota.
“Well, we’re back after ten days off, and I never imagined that, after ten days, a global pandemic would not be the lead story. Remember when we were all afraid of our groceries? I miss those days,” Colbert said opening the CBS broadcast. “The story that has pushed 100,000 Covid deaths below the fold is America’s preexisting condition: racism.”
Colbert, who is broadcasting his show remotely from his home, spent the entirety of his 12-minute opening monologue on the protests as well as talking about actions of President Trump.
“Now, in times like these, we need empathetic and moral leadership,” Colbert said. “Unfortunately, we have Donald Trump.”
Colbert added that addressing “systemic racial and economic injustice” is not only the right thing to do, “it is the safest, most conservative, most self-protecting, most self-serving thing to do.”
“Contents under pressure will eventually explode and that’s not a threat — that’s a law of nature,” he said. “It’s time to ask ourselves, as it is always time to ask ourselves, what kind of nation do we want to live in? That answer requires moral leadership.”
Colbert told his viewers to take it upon themselves to “set an example of the kind of country you want to live in” because the White House won’t.
“That might mean going to a protest or making a donation or having a tense conversation about race, but you’re not going to get that from the White House, so we need to step up and provide it ourselves,” he said. “America is now officially B.Y.O.P.: be your own president.”
Viacom goes dark
ViacomCBS (VIACA), the company that owns Colbert’s network, responded to the protests by having many of its stations go dark to “honor George Floyd and pay tribute to other victims of racial violence,” according to a statement by Bob Bakish, ViacomCBS (VIACA)’ CEO.
The blackout took place across ten networks including MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, CMT and CBS Sports Network. These stations went dark at 5 pm ET on Monday for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Floyd was pinned to the ground.
One of the most notable responses came from Nickelodeon, ViacomCBS’ children and family network. The network not only went dark, but posted a “declaration of kids’ rights” on its official Twitter account.
“You have the right to be seen, heard, and respected as a citizen of the world. You have the right to a world that’s peaceful. You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the color of your skin,” the declaration read. “You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice, and hatred. You have the right to an education that prepares you to run the world. You have the right to your opinions and feelings, even if others don’t agree with them.”