Hoo boy. By Monday if not earlier, someone will be apologizing for this, even if it looks more like a very badly bungled attempt to joke about Donald Trump. On Wednesday, Trump tried to explain why he and Melania have a personal concern as a parent about vaping, but ended up mangling his syntax, as Trump does more than occasionally:
Vaping has become a very big business, as I understand it. Like a giant business in a very short period of time. But we can’t allow people to get sick, and we can’t have our youth be so affected. And I’m hearing it. And that’s how the First Lady got involved. I mean, she’s got a son — together — that is a beautiful, young man, and she feels very, very strongly about it. She’s seen it. We’re both reading it. A lot of people are reading it. But people are dying with vaping.
Both Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert riffed on the clip, but they riffed on Trump — not Barron or Melania. “How on Earth does Trump forget that he has a son?” Noah wondered. “At least Darth Vader claimed his son.” Colbert went the impression route, imagining how Trump might have expanded on those thoughts:
“The first lady has got a son — together. It’s a mutual son. Of course, I’m very involved with the doings of it, and so is the first lady, who is a lovely mother, together, who I love and know her name. So well that I won’t waste your time saying it out loud.”
Funny? YMMV, but at least it took aim at the correct target. Trump’s totally fair game, and that kind of mangled syntax is the kind of thing over which comics have skewered presidents since the dawn of the television age. When Mika Brzezinski attempted to inject that into a discussion about Joe Biden’s weird answer on inequality in last night’s debate, however, she targeted Melania and their son instead. Just how sure are we that Trump is Barron’s father at all, Mika wondered aloud — until Joe Scarborough finally shut her down:
“Maybe it is Melania’s son,” Brzezinski said.
“It is Melania’s son,” Scarborough replied.
“That’s what he was saying, it was just her son. That’s not — that’s just what he said,” Brzezinski said, with a smile.
After an awkward pause, Scarborough said “Let me get back to Biden because I don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Well, it seems like he didn’t remember Barron’s name or…” Brzezinski said.
“Just stop,” Scarborough said. “We’ll let the tape play itself, okay?”
Over at Mediaite at the above link, my old friend Tommy Christopher — hardly a Trumpian apologist — wrote that Brzezinski “seemed to make the shocking suggestion that President Donald Trump isn’t really First Son Barron Trump’s father.” Tommy also zinged Trump himself by noting that no one has demanded to see Barron’s birth certificate “so far,” but Tommy certainly grasped exactly what Mika meant. And so, apparently, did Joe, who shut it down just as soon as he realized what Mika was saying.
That’s the risk of comedy, of course, especially when practiced by amateurs. You don’t target the non-combatants, especially children, when you take aim at politicians. Poking fun at Trump’s verbal gymnastics on Wednesday is no problem, but suggesting on national television that the president’s teenage son is illegitimate and that his mother had an affair is decidedly not funny. It’s apology time at Morning Joe.