Jon Stewart began Thursday night’s edition of The Daily Show with an emotional, joke-free commentary about racism and gun violence in America following the shooting deaths of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday.
“I didn’t do my job today. I apologize,” Stewart said, after explaining how his primary duty is to mock the daily news. “I’ve got nothing for you in terms of jokes and sounds, because of what happened in South Carolina. Maybe if I wasn’t nearing the end of the run or this wasn’t such a common occurrence, maybe I could have pulled out of the spiral. But I didn’t. And so I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence we do to each other and the nexus of a gaping racial wound that will not heal yet we pretend doesn’t exist.
“I’m confident though that by acknowledging it — by staring into that and seeing it for what it is — we still won’t do jacksh-t,” Stewart continued. “Yeah. That’s us. That’s the part that blows my mind. I don’t want to get into the political argument […] what blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves.”
On Wednesday, 21-year-old Dylann Roof allegedly entered the famous South Carolina church during a weekly bible study class and killed eight people. (A ninth died later at the hospital.) According to a relative of the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Roof apparently told his victims, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” In a statement released on Thursday, the NAACP called the murders a “mass hate crime.”
“We invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives and now fly unmanned death machines over five or six different countries, all to keep Americans safe. ‘We gotta do whatever we can — we’ll torture people. We gotta do whatever we can to keep Americans safe,'” Stewart said. “Nine people. Shot in a church. What about that? ‘Hey, what are you going to do. Crazy is crazy is, right?’ That’s the part that I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around. And you know it. You know it’s going to go down the same path.”
Stewart pointed out how the media is “already using the nuanced language of lack of effort” in an unwillingness to call the murders a “terrorist attack.”
“I heard someone on the news say, ‘Tragedy has visited this church.’ This wasn’t a tornado. This was racist,” Stewart said. “I hate to even use this pun, but this one is black and white. There’s no nuance here. But we’re going to keep pretending […] We are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it.”
Photos of Roof that circulated following the murders show the 21-year-old wearing clothes adorned with symbols associated with white supremicists. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Roof’s Facebook page included a picture of him posed in front of a car with a “Confederate States of America” license plate.
“Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them who wanted to start some kind of civil war,” Stewart said, before laying into South Carolina for still having the Confederate flag flying over its state capitol.
“The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina. And the roads are named for Confederate generals. And the white guy is the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him. We’re bringing it on ourselves,” Stewart said. “Al Qaeda, all those guys — ISIS. They’re not sh-t compared to the damage that we can apparently do to ourselves on a regular basis.”
Full video of Stewart’s Daily Show opening is below.