Late Night: Stephen Colbert on Trayvon Martin, hoodies and guns


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In a bit of unfortunate timing, ‘The Colbert Report’ and ‘The Daily Show’ were off the air last week as outrage over the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin swept across the country. The case itself, which combines racial stereotypes, guns, vigilante justice and a baby-faced victim, is a kind of perfect storm for cable news.

On Monday night, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert devoted portions of their programs to the case. Stewart primarily took aim at media coverage of the tragedy. In a game called ‘Jedi Knight or Sith Lord?’ Stewart ridiculed TV personalities such as Keith Olbermann and Roland Martin who wore hoodies in a show of support for Martin.


Colbert opted to make a more pointed political statement about what he sees as lax gun laws in the U.S. Seizing on Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera’s assertion that ‘the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was,’ Colbert urged Congress to pass strict hoodie-control legislation.

Colbert agreed that hoodies, and not Florida’s controversial self-defense laws, gun culture nor what he called ‘our nation’s borderline pathological distrust of young black men,’ are to blame for the tragedy.

‘A hooded sweatshirt can make an innocent teen look like a criminal,’ Colbert claimed. ‘Just like a suit and glasses can make Geraldo Rivera look like a journalist.’

Given the inherent danger of the hooded sweatshirt, Colbert argued, the garments should be more strictly regulated. ‘It is terrifying to live in a country where you can walk into any Wal-Mart and buy any hoodie off the rack. No background check, no waiting period,’ he said, borrowing the rhetoric of gun-control advocates.

Colbert stretched the gun-hoodie analogy to an absurd extreme: ‘Many parents keep their hoodies in an unlocked drawer where their kids can get at them. That’s why my hoodies are hidden in the back of my gun closet. Plenty of room in there, since I keep my guns in my pockets in case anyone comes for my hoodies.’

Colbert ended the segment on a decidedly earnest note, suggesting that the focus on Martin’s clothing was merely a diversion from the real problem: ‘If we ever stop talking about these hoodies, we might start talking about guns.’



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-- Meredith Blake