On Tuesday's episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host took President Trump's press secretary to task for her reported refusal to lead a press briefing during which she would face questions about the administration's immigrant family separation policy. Indeed, Stephen Colbert reminded Sarah Huckabee Sanders she can quit her job if "defending kids in cages" is too difficult.
The huge influx in family separations at U.S. border crossings is due to the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy, which was implemented in May. The policy mandates that undocumented border crossers are criminally prosecuted and, as a result, they are separated from their children. Parents and children are then detained in different facilities. Colbert opened his monologue by noting that he believes there are two ways you can feel about the family separation policy: "Either you can be horrified or you can work for Donald Trump."
Colbert then proceeded to critique one of the most visible members of the Trump administration, Sanders, for her reported unwillingness to do a press briefing that would involve questions about the policy. Instead, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was reportedly flown in from Louisiana to conduct part of the briefing. In response to this, Colbert appeared outraged, saying:
Sarah, you think you don’t want to talk about child separation policy? Try doing it on a comedy show! 'Oh you must love the Trump administration Stephen, the sadness just writes itself.'
Colbert then reminded Sanders that she chooses to work for the Trump administration — and serve as its mouthpiece. As the late night host asserted, “Listen up. You don’t get to tag out here, Sarah. Because it’s not really you up there. You’re just Donald Trump’s mouthpiece. Or whatever part the lies come out of.” Colbert then continued, adding, "It's not personal. You’re just the vehicle. You're like the vestigial twin that just grew out of Trump’s neck last summer. It’s just a mass of hair and teeth, but if you poke it with a stick it goes ... ‘Asked and answered!’"
The late night host wrapped up his discussion of Sanders by suggesting that the press secretary consider resigning her position if she does not believe she can defend the policy which her administration is implementing. Colbert directly addressed Trump's press secretary, saying, “So your administration owns locking up children. But if kids in cages are too much for you to defend, there is one option. You could resign."
To make his point hit home, the host then emphasized that Sanders can freely leave the White House, unlike children who are being detained in immigration facilities, including those in former Walmart stores. "This is the White House, not an abandoned Walmart," Colbert reminded Sanders. "You’re allowed to leave.”
Prior to her reported reluctance to conduct the aforementioned press briefing, Sanders faced intensive questioning about the administration's family separation policy at a previous briefing on June 13. At that briefing, CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked Sanders, “How is it a moral policy to take children away from their parents?" The reporter also added, "Can you imagine the horror these children must be going through, when they come across the border and they’re with their parents and then suddenly they're pulled away from their parents?"
In response, Sanders said that "it's a moral policy to follow and enforce the law ... it's the law and that's what the law states."
Sanders also faced pushback from other reporters at the June 13 presser. Brian Karem, the executive editor of the Sentinel newspapers in Maryland, asked her, "Come on, Sarah, you're a parent! ... Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through?” In response, Sanders chastised Karem for speaking out of turn and did not answer his question.
Sanders concluded the briefing by responding to a question regarding rumors that she is planning to leave her post. The press secretary noted that she did not have any "personal announcements" to make and added, "I can tell you ... I love my job. I'm glad to work for the president. And each and every day, I'll pray for clarity and discernment on what my future looks like.”
In Colbert's eyes, Sanders' commitment to her job is questionable, considering her reported reluctance to further discuss the family separation policy. In the late night host's view, Sanders should consider stepping away from her position if she is unwilling to defend the Trump administration's highly controversial policies.