Washington - As the Trump administration and its supporters scrambled on Tuesday to defend the separation of families at the border, late-night comics spent Monday night alternately mocking and excoriating them for confining hundreds of undocumented children in cages inside a large abandoned Walmart in South Texas.
The skits targeted everyone from President Donald Trump and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has denied the policy of family separation at the border even exists, to "Fox and Friends" host Steve Doocy. On Monday, Doocy, noting he was "from a farm community," said he saw not "cages" confining the children but "chain-link fences - it's more like a security pen to me."
On "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," Noah devoted significant time to mocking immigration hard-liners who, in interviews with Fox News or CNN, offered positive descriptions of the conditions in which children are being held, saying they have plenty of food, clothes, toiletries and recreation. They are "being treated much better than most of the conditions I'm being told they left," CNN commentator Andre Bauer said.
"That's not really the point," Noah said. "The point is, the federal government is effectively stealing kids away from their parents. Like, if some guy in an unmarked van took your kids from the park, the last thing you'd be worried about as a parent is how nice the van was or whether they had the good candy."
(The show, being prerecorded, missed Laura Ingraham's description of the detention centers as "essentially summer camps" during her Fox show.)
Noah did rip into Fox's Doocy over his comments about the cages being more like a "security pen" apparently reminiscent of a farm community.
"Wow. I never thought I would hear a positive spin on detaining children," he said. "Look, I'm a cage-half-full kind of guy, you know. After all, what is a chain-link fence if not a wall made of silver linings?"
Noah attacked Trump for backing away from the policy and trying to blame the Democrats for it.
Stephen Colbert satirised the defence of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" family separation policy in a skit called "The Devil's Advocate".
"Hello. Lucifer here," Colbert said on his CBS show. "You know, imprisoning children has been getting a lot of bad press lately. But prison: Is that really the worst place for kids? I mean, have you been to a Chuck E. Cheese? Some people refer to these facilities as cages, but on the other hoof, you see, I'm from a rural part of hell, and to me they look more like pens where they make Thomas Jefferson fight Charles Manson."
Going after Nielsen, Colbert simply used her own words against her as she attempted to double down on justifying the administration's actions. On Sunday, Nielsen tweeted, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period."
"Then why are you locking up kids in an abandoned Walmart? Question mark. Exclamation point. Colon. With your head up it," Colbert said.
Nielsen also told a group of sheriffs in a speech on Monday, "We will not apologise for doing our job," and, "We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family."
"Yes, who can tell if these weeping toddlers are part of a family?" Colbert said. "They might not even be toddlers. They might be adults with shoes on their knees."
"Yes, they're not gonna apologise," he continued. "What would that even look like? 'Yes, we've taken your children hostage. Sorry!'"
On "Late Night with Seth Meyers," Meyers called Trump's blame-shifting an attempt to "gaslight the country" into believing the Democrats created laws that require family separation for illegal border crossers. There is no such law on the books.
During, Meyers's segment, he played a clip of Trump's comments he made to reporters on Friday in which Trump said he "hates the children being taken away".
"The Democrats gave us the laws," Trump said. "Now, I want the laws to be beautiful, humane, but strong."
"Beautiful, humane and strong," Meyers repeated. "Trump's laws are starting to sound like the Tinder profile of a Russian scammer trying to catfish you."
At the end of his segment, however, Meyers cut the comedy, calling for the resignation of any official who supports the "monstrous and morally repugnant" policy and saying any lawmaker who doesn't speak out is "complicit."