CBS Host Craig Ferguson Pays 9/11 Tribute to America: 'The Flag Was Still There'

Instead of opening with his usual monologue of jokes, Craig Ferguson, an immigrant from Scotland, began Monday night's Late Late Show on CBS with a tribute to America, a refreshing attitude not often heard these days in the mainstream media. “I consider myself an American,” he declared on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, adding: “I've been here for a long time. I love this country.” Ferguson contended: “Anyone who cares about anything, when these rat bastards flew those planes into those buildings, if you're a human, it would insult everything inside you.” Ferguson suggested “this is a defining moment for our generation. For one generation, it was the assassination of Kennedy, for another it's 9/11. It's 'Where were you on September the 11th?'”

Ferguson proceeded to recount how a few days after 9/11 he was at the Warner Brothers lot, where he was an actor on the Drew Carey Show, for a memorial service. The Teamsters had put up on the side of a building a huge U.S. flag and as the wind blew some of the clips holding it up came loose, but the flag stayed in place. He recalled: “For all the fear and terror that 9/11 brought, I thought then when I saw that flag stay there, I thought that's the way it is here. This is an ill wind and it moved the flag and a couple of clips popped, and the country reeled back from it, and for all the arguments and all the rascals and the scoundrels on either side of political debates, all across who try and claim this awful, awful day as something they own, there is argument and debate in America, and that's what makes us the country that we are. And when that wind blew, and when that ill wind blew in America, the flag was still there. The flag was still there.”

Video clip (5:55): Real (4.4 MB at 100 kbps) or Windows Media (3.7 MB at 81 kbps), plus MP3 audio (2 MB)

I could have done without the criticism of “all the rascals and the scoundrels on either side of political debates, all across who try and claim this awful, awful day as something they own,” which could be seen as a cryptic shot at President Bush since it matches a liberal talking point about him -- but Ferguson's overall unashamed sentiment and appreciation for our country was pleasing to hear on a broadcast television network.

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, which is taped in Los Angeles and airs after the Late Show with David Letterman, is produced for CBS by Letterman's Worldwide Pants, Inc.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the September 11 (technically aired Sept. 12 in the EDT and PDT zones) Late Late Show on CBS. Ferguson opened his show:
"Normally I come out here, you know, and dance around and do my thing and say it's a great day for America. I'm not going to say that tonight. It's the fifth anniversary of 9/11. And it doesn't really seem appropriate. To be honest, I will be honest with you, I did not want to do a show tonight. I didn't want to do it, but, I wanted to put up a rerun, but we just had two weeks of reruns and we've run out of them. We don't have any more reruns, so I didn't know what to do. And also, I didn't want to do a show, but it seemed kind of chicken to run away from it.....So I thought, no, I'll come out and do it, and I didn't want to come out and do jokes about Paris Hilton and all that kind of stuff like we normally do (laughter). We'll have plenty tomorrow. Stay tuned. She'll go out and do something to tonight. We'll be all over it. (laughter)

“If you watch this show at all, thank you, and you'll know that I consider myself an American. I've been here for a long time. I love this country. My first job in America was a construction worker in Harlem in New York, and when I was working there, I used to sit up on the roof at lunchtime with the rest of the guys that worked there and have lunch. When I say lunch, you know I smoked marijuana (laughter). It was me and ten Jamaicans. What were we going to do? That's what we did. And we used to sit up there, you know, and we'd enjoy our lunch, and we would, and we'd watch the planes flying into Kennedy, and just, you know, we thought how awful it would be if ever anything happened, you know, and then of course years later, that image that none of us will forget.

“Now, it's a hell of a thing to change your country. You know, it's like changing your religion. You know, it's like when you become a convert, you know, you're more zealous. Like someone changes to being a Catholic, you know, it's like people who grew up being a Catholic are like, 'Why is he so catholic?' Well, it's just the way I am, you know. It's what I am about America. And I feel that, you know, [POSTED VIDEO starts here] I'm here, my son is an American, I pay my taxes in America, I pay alimony in America. I feel I'm assimilated to you. And so I feel part of this. I think the world is part of this. Anyone who cares about anything, when these rat bastards flew those planes into those buildings, if you're a human, it would insult everything inside you. And if you've watched TV at all in the past few days, you'll have seen plenty of talk on 9/11, and I don't really know what kind of show we do here. If you've watched this for any length of time, you'll know I'm not kidding about that. I don't really know what we do, but I'm not going to run away from this.

“This is a defining moment for our generation. For one generation, it was the assassination of Kennedy, for another it's 9/11. It's 'Where were you on September the 11th?' So here's where I was. I was here in Los Angeles. I was married at the time, and I got an early phone call from my then-father-in-law. I was awake. I mean, my son was less than six months old at the time, so I was awake. And my father-in-law worked on Wall Street near Ground Zero. And he said turn on the TV, World War III has broken out, it's crazy. And we turned on the television, and watched unfold like the most of the country, I saw the second plane hit as it happened live, and I didn't hear from my father-in-law again for four hours. The phone service was down. And we eventually heard from him. He like a lot of people just walked uptown. They just headed to Central Park covered in dust, did whatever they did, and they got out of there. And I remember the feeling of when the news reports later in the day, they said the planes had, the rest of the planes in America, the air traffic has ceased and all the planes were safely landed, I felt a strange sense of relief. America felt like a very small town that day. You know, that kind of, get everybody home, that sort of thing.

“And back then I was working on the Drew Carey Show. I was still in show business then. I was working on the Drew Carey Show. And around about noon, the stage manager called, we used to shoot the show on a Tuesday, and he called and he said we're not going to tape today, and I said, 'What, is Drew okay with that because you know lunch is catered on Tuesdays?' (Laughter) So where we taped the show was at the Warner Brothers studios, which is in Burbank here. So a few days later, we went back to work. Air travel was still shut down. The country was still reeling and mourning. And everyone, it seems strange to say it now, but I remember thinking, we thought this was World War III. When's the next one coming? Tomorrow? The day after? And there was all these memorial services everywhere. People in work places all over the country, you know, I'm sure you remember, people would get together and pray and sing and hold hands and do whatever they could.

“And Warner Brothers was no different. And they had a memorial service on the back lot. You know, the studio police, the studio fire department, all the people that worked there. The Teamsters, the cast from Friends were there, the cast of the Drew Carey were there. Drew Carey cast looked like they were Teamsters. And we were all in the back lot, and the back lot of Warner Brothers, it's where they shoot the Gilmore Girls. It's Main Street, USA. It's made to look like that. You know, it's a quaint little town. It's got a town square. It's got a band stand in the middle. They've got a town drunk. He runs the studio (laughter). You know, it's everything. It's really Main Street, USA. And the street was packed with everyone who worked there, and we're all huddled together. And back then, Warner Brothers had, this is before 9/11, they used to have this giant flag. You remember they used to have? They used to have this giant Stars and Stripes on the side of one of the sound stages. It's a huge thing, this flag, about the size of a city block.

“And for the service, the Teamsters had jerry-rigged this flag on some scaffolding in the town square. You know, it was this flag on some scaffolding, it was held on with clips, you know, this was jubilee clips or whatever they call them, just holding this flag on. And it was a very, very hot day like you get in Burbank in September. It was horrible, and this flag up there, there was some shade so everyone was huddled under the shade of the flag. And it seemed very poignant at the time that everyone was frighten and everyone was, you know, but we all kind of huddled under this flag for protection. And at this time of year, the Santa Anas start to blow in Los Angeles. The winds start to blow, and they can pick up a bit. And halfway through the ceremony is the, you know, everyone is saying their peace.

“This flag started to ripple with the winds that are coming up and it started to ping loose from the jerry-rigging, the flag started to kind of move, and I thought, 'God, we can't have this now. This flag can't fall down on us now. There's something very wrong about that.' And a couple of these little clips pinged out, but the flag stayed where it was. And it's something that I'll never forget because for all the fear and terror that 9/11 brought, I thought then when I saw that flag stay there, I thought that's the way it is here. This is an ill wind and it moved the flag and a couple of clips popped, and the country reeled back from it, and for all the arguments and all the rascals and the scoundrels on either side of political debates, all across who try and claim this awful, awful day as something they own, there is argument and debate in America, and that's what makes us the country that we are. And when that wind blew, and when that ill wind blew in America, the flag was still there. The flag was still there (applause). Maybe somebody should write a song about that. We'll be back in a minute."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center