John Oliver explains the real dangers of Trump's trolling and 'whataboutism,' proposes some defensive tools
On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spent the bulk of the show on President Trump and how Americans must avoid following him into a nihilistic cul-de-sac. "I honestly know that the prospect of talking about Trump yet again feels exhausting," he said, suggesting that every room in America have a clock that counts the minutes since someone mentioned Trump's name. But "Trump's presidency is like one of his handshakes: it pulls you in whether you like it or not," Oliver said, and you need to be prepared.
Trump is often staggeringly incoherent, but "the real damage isn't in how he says things, but from three key techniques that he uses to insulate himself from criticism and consequence," Oliver said: Delegitimizing the media, "whataboutism," and trolling. "Despite Trump's few real policy accomplishments to date, he has consistently achieved one thing, and that is making his enemies unhappy," he noted. "And for many Trump supporters, that itself counts as a major victory."
Thanks to Trump, these techniques are spreading with a patina of legitimacy, Oliver said, pointing to Sean Hannity's pivoting from the allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to Bill Clinton's alleged sexual misconduct. "Even if you believe that Democrats are guilty of a double standard, the solution is not to have no standard whatsoever," Oliver said. "That is why it's so important to train ourselves to identify these three techniques, because their natural endpoint is the erosion of our ability to decide what's important, have an honest debate, and hold one another accountable."
Oliver acknowledged the bleakness of that pronouncement then listed a few bright spots to keep people going, "because the Trump presidency is basically a marathon: It's painful, it's pointless, and the majority of you didn't even agree to run it." He ended with some new Trump-focused ads from his "Catheter Cowboy" character. Watch below — but be warned, there is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber
In a few weeks, voters in Alabama will pick the next U.S. senator, and the favored candidate is Roy Moore, a twice-ousted Alabama Supreme Court chief justice. On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver went through some areas where Moore has voiced extremist positions on conservative social issues. For example, as terrible as you might imagine his views are on homosexuality, Oliver said, "they're actually worse. He favors criminalization of sodomy, and if you ask him about that, things get weird fast."
"Now luckily, due to everything that you've seen so far, Republicans in both the House and the Senate have roundly condemned Moore and his views, and have even gone so far as to — I'm obviously kidding," Oliver said. "He just entered into a fundraising agreement with the RNC, and multiple Republican senators are actively fundraising on his behalf." He let Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) explain why. "That kind of blind loyalty means there is nobody you would not support," Oliver explained. "If the Republican party nominated a swarm of smallpox-infected bees, presumably John Cornyn would say: 'Look, we disagree on a lot of things, but Sen. All Those Bees is a reliable vote on tax cuts. I support the nominee of my party.'"
Oliver also checked in on America's horribly fatal opioid crisis, and President Trump: "Combating America's opioid crisis was one of Trump's central campaign promises, but I have to say, a lot of his solutions were underwhelming, including one of the key announcements on Thursday." You can watch why Oliver is skeptical that an ad campaign will solve America's opioid epidemic below. There is NSFW language. Peter Weber
"Floods were everywhere this summer — think of them as the 'Despacito' of natural disasters: persistent, ubiquitous, and absolutely no fault of the Puerto Rican government," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, trotting out some sobering statistics. According to FEMA, 90 percent of U.S. natural disasters involve a flood, "and floods are only going to get worse due to climate change," Oliver said. (For climate change doubters, he had some terse words.)
"But while floods are often referred to as natural disasters, the truth is, the damage they do is often, to some extent, within our control," he explained, "because we have made certain decisions that put and keep people and property in the path of flooding. And that is what this story is about."
There are a lot of factors that are making floods more destructive, like paving over naturally absorbent areas for development, but one of them is clearly surprisingly cheap, federally subsidized flood insurance. When it was created in the 1960s, the National Flood Insurance Program was supposed to be temporary, with people moving away from flood-prone areas when they were told their lives were at risk, but "that's not how people work," Oliver said. "Huge risks to our personal safety for the sake of a discount — that was the entire premise behind the McDonald's Dollar Menu."
The NFIP's incentives and execution need serious reworking, Oliver said. "For insurance companies, the bigger the disaster, the more they stand to profit," and just a few houses get a "shockingly big chunk" of the program's tax dollars. He suggested some reforms to the program when it comes up for renewal in December, and a seagull who had been pestering him all show provided the emotional denouement. There is liberal use of the f-word. Watch below. Peter Weber
John Oliver frets that Trump's foreign policy is like a scared monkey hitting buttons on a submarine
President Trump went ahead and disavowed the agreement to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons last week, and essentially none of his peers or Cabinet secretaries agree with his decision, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. He played a clip where Trump explained his thinking, then pointed out how everything Trump said is factually incorrect, leading to a premature celebration. "It turns out nothing matters, nothing matters anymore," Oliver said when it turned out Trump is still president. "I'm sorry. He didn't know what he was talking about! I thought that was meaningful."
Trump didn't sink the deal himself so much as kick it over to Congress, but the damage to America will be long-lasting nevertheless, Oliver said. "Countries need to know that America will honor its agreements, because if they don't, that's going to be an issue no matter who that next president is." So, he recapped, "this Iran deal decision is equal parts dangerous and bizarre. Trump is asking Congress to fix a deal they don't realistically have the ability to fix," bypassing the agreement's built-in "process for restoring sanctions if Iran doesn't comply — which, remember, everyone agrees that they are doing. And he also threatened to pull out of the deal himself, even though his secretary of state already said that he wouldn't, but who knows if those two are even speaking."
The end result can't be called a foreign policy so much as an incoherent mess, Oliver said, comparing it to "a scared monkey in a submarine randomly pushing buttons" — an adorable image until you realize that we're all on the submarine. There is NSFW language. Peter Weber
Equifax, one of three main credit-monitoring agencies, "controls some of our most sensitive information," and that's a real shame, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, because hackers stole that information on up to 145 million Americans. He explained why it's really, really bad that criminals likely have access to your Social Security number, address, and other information. Ordinarily, this would be a massive story, he said, "but now that every day's headline is simply the words 'Everything Bats--t Bananas Again Today,' it's slipped under the radar."
"This isn't Target exposing customers' credit cards," Oliver noted, "this is compromising Social Security numbers, the things that thieves could use to open new credit cards in your name, and if your information was stolen — which, remember, is about a 50-50 chance — it could haunt you forever." He took a look at how this happened, and "the short answer," he said, "is the people in charge have done literally everything wrong." And he explained what you can — and can't, and shouldn't (see: LifeLock) — do about it.
The first thing you should do is freeze your credit with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, Oliver said. "That way, no one can access it, including you, until you unfreeze it." This may cost some money, and that's just another way that these companies always seem to win, no matter how bad it is for you. By the end of the segment, you might find yourself pretty, pretty angry. Well, too bad, Oliver said, "because they make most of their money selling our data to businesses, like banks. So in their eyes, we're not the consumer, we're the product. To think of it in terms of KFC, we're not the guy buying the 10-piece buckets, we're the f---ing chickens." There is NSFW language throughout. Watch below. Peter Weber
John Oliver sarcastically cheers Hollywood for freezing out Harvey Weinstein, mocks Trump on ObamaCare
John Oliver returned to thrashing disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, but he also had some words about the industry that looked the other way, illustrating his point with the reaction to a disgusting story from actress Angie Everhart. "That's just Harvey — he's like a sex criminal version of the Kool-Aid Man," Oliver paraphrased. He noted that, incredibly, some famous people originally defended Weinstein before later apologizing, and appeared underwhelmed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences kicking Weinstein out while declaring that "the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over."
"Yes," Oliver said, "finally, the group that counts among its current members Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby, and Mel Gibson has found the one guy who treated women badly and kicked him out."
President Trump was also busy last week, Oliver said, taking bold steps to kill ObamaCare. "Yes, Trump's plan is going to make insurance more expensive and lose the federal government more money," he explained. "It's a strategy you can read about in his book The Art of Being Bad at Stuff (Including Book Titling, no end parentheses." Republicans know raising premiums by 20 percent is bad politics, and some had been able to talk him out of it before, Oliver said. "The problem is, Republicans are playing checkers and Trump is playing Chex — that's right, Chex, the game of stress-eating Chex Mix because you do not understand your job." Watch below. Peter Weber
A year ago, The Washington Post released the infamous Access Hollywood tape that featured Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault, and America marked the occasion "with a series of grim stories concerning the treatment of women," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. The biggest was the "massive exposé" in The New York Times detailing decades of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, "and his response was infuriating," Oliver said. He shared some disgusting new allegations, too. "Step aside, Chocolat, you are no longer the most horrifying picture that Harvey Weinstein has ever produced," Oliver said. "Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the Harvey Weinstein of presidents, had his own surprise for women this week," or at least women who use contraception.
Oliver also tackled the week's chaos in the White House, especially the hilarious but deadly serious tensions between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. "I guess this is just the type of discussion that we now have on TV," Oliver sighed. "Does the secretary of state think the president is a 'moron' or a 'f---ing moron'? Because if it's just 'moron,' that actually makes him a moderate." It's HBO, so Oliver doesn't censor the fleeting expletive, meaning this clip has decidedly NSFW language. If that doesn't bother you, you can watch Oliver discuss the Tillerson "suicide pact" with two other Cabinet secretaries and the most frightening thing Trump said last week below. Peter Weber
John Oliver's main topic on Sunday's Last Week Tonight was the Confederacy, but he began with "a beloved icon of my childhood" in Britain, Jimmy Savile. After Savile died, it emerged he was a child sex offender, and all monuments to him were taken down, "because once we found out that he was a monster, we accepted it was no longer appropriate to publicly glorify him," Oliver said. The Confederacy, he suggested, is "America's track-suit sex offender," and since the debate over what to do with its monuments "is clearly not going away, we wanted to take a look at some of the arguments."
"The key fact about the Civil War," Oliver said, is that "the Confederacy was fighting for the preservation of slavery. And that's not my opinion. That is just a fact." It's an especially hard one to swallow if a relative fought for the Confederacy, he conceded, and "I honestly get wanting a more comfortable history for your family, but in doing so, you can't invent a more comfortable history for your country, because you'd be erasing the actual painful experiences of many Americans."
Oliver went through how various celebrities reacted to learning about their own Confederate ancestry. "Look, Larry David is not responsible for what his ancestors did — none of us are," he said. "I have to believe that, because I'm English." But personally and as a nation, America has to "actively, painfully come to grips with slavery and the lasting benefits and disadvantages that it conferred in ways that, frankly, we haven't yet."
"Monuments are not how we record history," Oliver said, pointing to books, museums, and Ken Burns' documentaries. "Statues are how we glorify people." He ended with some alternative statues for four places with Confederate ones, and one of his replacements was an old friend from The Daily Show. Peter Weber