Last Week Tonight returned from hiatus on Sunday – perfect timing for John Oliver to “figure out what the fuck just happened” at the Republican National Convention. The event was, as Oliver said: “the most apocalyptic ever to happen to [Cleveland] – and bear in mind, their river has repeatedly caught fire.”
The host of Last Week Tonight was back with a vengeance, ripping Trump’s terrifying Republican National Convention and unearthing a damning clip describing his approach.
“This is a dictatorship and I’m the dictator. There’s no voting and there’s no jury.”
Donald Trump delivered this line, straight-faced, on his NBC series The Apprentice. And Sunday night, John Oliver aired the prophetic clip on his HBO program Last Week Tonight before explaining how it serves as the perfect description of the former reality host’s chaotic, fact-free presidential campaign.
“Unless we’re careful, by this time next year, this could be America’s new National Anthem,” warned Oliver.
Indeed, Trump’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland was a grim affair, painting America as if it were a dystopian nightmare—a sentiment that the GOP candidate has tried to hammer home virtually every time he opens his mouth. The problem is that the facts clearly state otherwise, but Trump’s campaign has been fact-free, instead emphasizing “feelings.”
The prevailing attitude was summed up by none other than D-list ex-reality star Antonio Sabato Jr., who, when asked by CNN about President Obama’s faith, replied, “First of all, I don’t believe that the guy is a Christian. I don’t believe that he follows the God that I love, and the Jesus I love.”
When the CNN host followed up by asking Sabato Jr. whether he thought Obama was a Muslim, he said, “Absolutely. That’s what I believe, yeah. And you know what? I have the right to believe that, and you have the right to go against that.”
“Now, what’s revealing there isn’t his mistaken belief that President Obama is a Muslim,” said Oliver, “what is truly revealing is his implication that believing something to be true is the same as it being true, because if anything, that was the theme of the Republican Convention this week. It was a four-day exercise of emphasizing feelings over facts.”
Feelings over facts. Oliver then aired a montage of RNC speakers highlighting the “feelings” of the American people in lieu of actual statistics, ending with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s proclamation: “The economy feels stuck.”
“What do you mean it feels stuck?” asked Oliver. “The economy is about numbers—feelings are supposed to be irrelevant!”
The whole feelings over facts thing was epitomized, of course, by presidential nominee Donald Trump’s speech, where he described how “I know that corruption has reached a level like never, ever before in our country,” and that “180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records ordered deported from our country are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.” (Neither of these are true.)
“Holy shit! He sounds like he’s about to announce the First annual Hunger Games,” said Oliver. “It is worth noting that since President Obama took office crime rates, the flow of illegal immigrants over our borders, and claims for unemployment benefits have all declined. And yet frighteningly, when reporters started pointing that out, it didn’t seem to matter.”
CNN actually pointed out to Newt Gingrich that the crime rate in America has dropped considerably—and relatively consistently—over the last 25 years, to which he replied, “The current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics that theoretically may be right, but it’s not where human beings are.”
“What Gingrich is saying is that feelings are as valid as facts, so then by the transitive property, candidates can create facts—which is terrifying because essentially someone like Donald Trump can create his own reality,” said Oliver.
The comedian also poked fun at Donald Trump’s recent, bizarre commercial: a 30-second clip essentially bragging about how much applause he got—24 minutes!?—at the convention (and with a math error to boot).
“Between that 24 minutes of applause was a symphony of bile and race-baiting,” Oliver said. “Remember, this is a man that has retaliated against journalists and has at various points advocated killing terrorists’ families, endorsed torture, and expressed admiration for leaders like Kim Jong-un, Saddam Hussein, and Vladimir Putin. His message this week was the message of every strongman ever: the world is dangerous and only I can make you safe.”
The show finished with a dig at politicians continued miss-use of musicians songs.
During a speech denouncing the Iran deal, Trump used REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It – which Oliver lampooned as almost too perfect. “Trump may as well have been riding out on stage with the three other horsemen of the apocalypse,” Oliver said.
Other offenders Oliver pointed out were Mike Huckabee with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, Sarah Palin with Heart’s Barracuda, John McCain with two John Mellencamp songs, the Democratic National Committee with Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors and Ronald Reagan for his misunderstanding of Bruce Springsteen’s quietly critical hit Born in the USA. Scott Walker’s unauthorized use of music by the Dropkick Murphys had Oliver cracking up. The band tweeted at the governor of Wisconsin, saying: “please stop using our music in any way…we literally hate you !!!”
In response to the countless instances, Oliver gathered Usher, Michael Bolton, Cyndi Lauper, Josh Groban, John Mellencamp, the band Heart, Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons and Sheryl Crow to make a music video with an overly patriotic backdrop.
“Don’t use our songs / For real, come on / You’re lucky we don’t sue / And what’s the deal with all those balloons?” they sang in unison.
“And just to be clear, you can’t use this song either,” Reynolds sang.
“Here’s one tune we all agree / That you can use any time for free,” Mellencamp added. The video then cut to a cat walking across a piano.