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Letterman once offered comic non-apology for calling Trump a racist

The former 'Late Show' host didn't sit still for Trump's birther conspiracy theories about President Obama.
David Letterman Trump Birtherism
Photo: Getty Images

This week, David Letterman announced he would return to the TV-interviewing game with a new Netflix series. At the same time, a clip resurfaced that showed why he's been missed. In a 2012 episode of The Late Show, Letterman recounted a Trump appearance on the show, when he espoused birther theories about then-President Obama, leading Letterman to call him a racist.

“I said on the air, ‘I think, Donald, if you’re saying these things, I think that means you might be a racist,’” Letterman said. “I flat-out called him a racist. Well, he didn’t think that was funny.”

Letterman lamented this was a different Trump than the frequent guest who laughed along when Letterman made fun of his hair, called him a slumlord and accused him of "evicting old ladies."

This Trump said he would never return to the show, and demanded an apology.

"I always want to believe the best in people," said Letterman. "I don't want to believe that in 2012, a guy in his position is a racist. We don't need that."

After ruminating comically on “big, dopey puppy Donald Trump” and his possible motivations — "Maybe he's not a racist. Maybe he just says stupid things to get people's attention" — Letterman offered a backhanded apology: "He's just a dope. How about that? From the heart. Gosh, it would be great if he'd come back."

"The bottom line is that he's not on the show anymore," said bandleader Paul Shaffer.

"Yep," said Letterman.

 

A Trump appearance on Letterman's new show would certainly make for appointment television. In a July interview with the Associated Press, Letterman said Trump's behavior was "insulting to Americans," suggesting, "Let's just stop whining about what a goon he is and figure out a way to take him aside and put him in a home."

"This guy couldn't work at The Gap," he continued. "So why do we have to be victimized by his fecklessness, his ignorance?"

In May in GQ, Letterman called Trump "a man without a soul" who "makes me sick."

He added that he'd like to interview Trump one more time.

 
 
 
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