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Maxine Waters: There are L.A. gangsters with ‘more integrity’ than Trump

‘This guy is a street player,’ Waters says of the president on ‘Desus & Mero’

Rep. Maxine Waters told “Desus & Mero” she’s “uncomfortable” with how the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is playing out.
Rep. Maxine Waters told “Desus & Mero” she’s “uncomfortable” with how the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is playing out. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Maxine Waters made her debut Thursday night on Showtime’s “Desus & Mero” late night show and (characteristically) didn’t hold back as she criticized President Donald Trump.

“This guy is a street player,” Waters said. “He’s a guy that has conned folks. He’s flirted with gangsters.”

Waters, who leads the House Financial Services Committee, was one of the first Democrats to call for Trump’s impeachment and has been a vocal Trump critic throughout his presidency.

“I have worked in some of the toughest communities,” said Waters, who represents Los Angeles. “I’ve worked with gangs, I’ve worked with Crips, I’ve worked with Bloods. And there’s more integrity in many of these young people in the hood than this man has. This is a flawed character, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Waters said she’s “uncomfortable” with how the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is playing out and concerned about the party picking someone who can take on Trump. “This country cannot tolerate another four years of him,” she said. Waters plans to wait until after the South Carolina debate to make an endorsement.

While she pushed back on her colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s assertion that D.C. has no good food options — a claim the Bronx congresswoman made during an appearance on “Desus & Mero” earlier this year — Waters admitted that the food at the Capitol “is the worst,” with the exception of Longworth’s Wednesday menu, which features fried chicken. (I agree.)

Desus and Mero, two personalities who rose to internet fame trading jokes and providing sharp cultural commentary in the early days of Twitter, have become a go-to stop for politicians. They’ve taken shots with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, played basketball with Sen. Cory Booker, let former mayor Pete Buttigieg show off his less-than-conversational Spanish, asked Sen. Bernie Sanders to guess the price of shoes, locked themselves in an escape room with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and eaten bodega bacon-egg-and-cheeses with Ocasio-Cortez.

Waters became a small internet sensation in her own right, earning praise from admirers for her confrontational style soon after Trump took office. Fans affectionately dubbed her “Auntie Maxine” after a clip of her questioning Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin went viral, turning the standard committee hearing request “reclaiming my time” into a meme.

Late-night appearances have been routine for politicians since the days of Richard Nixon and “Laugh-In.” Long-running programs like NBC’s “Tonight Show” have hosted the likes of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Chris Christie. Meanwhile, “Saturday Night Live” tends to generate more buzz during election season, including in 2015 when then-candidate Donald Trump hosted the show.

But late night television is different now. For one, it’s slightly more diverse (“Full Frontal” with Samantha Bee, “Patriot Act” with Hasan Minhaj). When Bill Clinton wanted to burnish his credibility with young voters during the 1992 campaign, he played the saxophone for Arsenio Hall, then the only successful black late night host.

Since the success of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” on Comedy Central, late night comedy has grown even more political. And post-“Daily Show,” the genre has spread all over cable and premium channels like Showtime and HBO, meaning they can be more risqué (Desus and Mero are known for several catchphrases that are unprintable in this publication), which gives politicians a way to show their edginess in a (somewhat) controlled environment.

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