President Trump's explanation for denying Russian election meddling is that he misspoke, meaning to use a "double negative." Well, Stephen Colbert has a few ideas for how the president could similarly rewrite other past speeches of his. On Tuesday, Colbert joked about Trump's double negative excuse and used the chance to revisit the president's comments about Charlottesville and grabbing women "by the pussy."
"I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't,'" Trump stated during a press conference on Tuesday. He claimed he'd meant to say, "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia," referring to attempts to hack the 2016 U.S. election.
According to Colbert, that excuse revealed "how dumb [... Trump thinks] the American people are." He said on Tuesday, "Yes, the sentence should have been that. It was not that," and added, "If you could just add a new word in, what's next?"
Remembering some of Trump's most controversial remarks, he joked: "After Charlottesville, I meant to say there's bad people on both sides." Last August, the president addressed a deadly attack at the counter-protest of a white nationalist rally by claiming that there were "some very fine people on both sides."
"And also, on that bus, I meant to say respect her by the pussy," Colbert added, referring to Trump's infamous Access Hollywood tape comments.
"Who among us hasn’t said the exact opposite of what he just said in front of cameras on multiple occasions?" Colbert said, before backtracking. "I'm sorry, let me clarify. That sentence should be: Who among us has not not done that?"
"Trump un-re-non-clarified further," he continued, before playing another clip of the press conference in which Trump reiterated that he'd intended to use the word "wouldn't" and called it "sort of a double negative."
"Yes, it's a double negative, like 'Donald' and 'Trump,'" Colbert joked.
"Of all the terrible words he said in that press conference, you're only taking back one of them?" Colbert asked incredulously. Facetiously speaking as Trump again, he added: "That part where I was asked to condemn Putin but instead I improvised a surrealist slam poem about Hillary's email server? Nailed it."
Trump's performance at the press conference with Putin was met with widespread backlash. Many had hoped that he would use the opportunity to publicly denounce Russia's meddling in the election; instead, not only did he seem to suggest that Russia could be innocent — contradicting the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies — but he also argued that the country could be a useful cybersecurity partner for the United States. Trump also avoided condemning acts of recent Russian aggression like its annexation of Crimea, its support for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and its employment of a deadly nerve agent against targets in the United Kingdom.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle spoke out against Trump's remarks. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called them "shameful," while Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said that Trump gave "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory." Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the president's behavior "thoughtless, dangerous, and weak," while Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said it was "just jaw dropping."
Trump's "double negative" explanation left many without reassurance, including some Republican lawmakers. Representative Will Hurd (R-TX) said that even if the president had accidentally said the wrong thing, the issue wasn't solved. "This also brings up question of was there other times he misspoke in the one-on-one meeting?" he asked on Tuesday. "This is an indication that when it comes to two important countries like the United States and a global spoiler like Russia, language is important, and being precise is important."
Colbert would probably argue that what's really crucial is being un-re-non-imprecise.