Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Late-night guests Tom Arnold and W. Kamau Bell differ on Trump's "n-word" tape

W. Kamau Bell, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

As Donald Trump’s loose lips and looser concept of audio security move the goalposts for his supporters past “Well, so what if he said the most reviled racial slur imaginable?,” two very different late-night talk show guests had unsurprisingly different takes on the increasingly probable existence of the reported Trump “n-word” tape. Not about the existence of said tape from the set of Trump’s former NBC D-lister game show, Celebrity Apprentice—pretty much everyone is preparing to hear the president drop the n-bomb at this point—but about what, if any, effect such a recording will have.

On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Tom Arnold—there to promote his new Viceland series The Hunt For The Trump Tapes—spent his signature breathless, gesticulating 10 minutes railing against the guy he’s known for 30 years. Having shot a comedy special at one of Trump’s properties, the two became something like actual buddies for a while, even though, as Arnold claimed, when they went to the Playboy Mansion together, Trump was the creepy one of the pair. Pulling Celebrity Apprentice producer and Trump pal Mark Burnett into the fray, Arnold (as seen in a clip from his show) criticized Burnett for holding back tapes (including not only racial slurs, but sexual harassment, and Trump calling son Eric “the r-word”) that would ... show the world that Donald Trump is the horrible human being that everyone already knows he is, one assumes. For all his self-promoting bluster, Arnold did at least provide a credible Hollywood insider’s take on the Trump he knew, including the tidbit that—as all TV crews do—there’s a crew-culled compilation tape of all Trump’s most heinous and embarrassing on-set behavior circulating “on a hard drive” somewhere. He also offered the intriguing insight that, because Celebrity Apprentice was technically a game show, FCC rules mean that Burnett has had to hold onto countless hours of raw tape.

On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, on the other hand, guest W. Kamau Bell spent more time calling out those who need an actual recording of Donald Trump saying the word “nigger” to convince themselves that Trump is a racist. Emmy winner Bell told Colbert that the need for this one thing to prove that a person who was indicted in 1973 for refusing to rent property to black and brown people, who trumpeted “birtherism” about the first black president, and who recently attacked LeBron James, Don Lemon, and Omarosa “is really a white person thing.” (He also said the fact that black people have had to defend former Trump White House staffer and Apprentice figure Omarosa this week proves just how “bad at life” Trump is.) Responding to Colbert’s assertion that media types have—finally—started to peep their heads out and actually call Donald Trump a racist, the United Shades Of America star again said that such “hesitancy” is “generally among white people, and those who have been hired by white people,” and “really something the white people have to get over.” Sporting a T-shirt reading “‘Yes, he’s a racist.’—Me, 2017,” (profits from which go to a Boys And Girls Club, should you want one), Bell explained how Trump’s empirical awfulness has even succeeded in radicalizing his white mother-in-law. As Bell put it, not everyone needs the “rotten cherry on top of the crap sundae” that would be secret audio slurs to take to the streets in protest of a proven bigot.


Share This Story

About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.