On Sunday night, John Oliver broadcast what may prove to be the last late-night show for quite some time.
“Well, well, well, um… this is weird, isn’t it? This is definitely weird,” offered Oliver. “As you can clearly tell, this is not going to be our usual show.”
Instead of the usual Last Week Tonight set, Oliver was parked behind a glass desk in front of a blank white background because, he explained, “Both the place where we normally tape on Sunday [the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City] and our office building had confirmed cases of coronavirus this week, so our staff has been working from home, and we’re currently taping this somewhere else with a very limited crew.”
He later added, “This was the week that the coronavirus, for many people here in the U.S., seemed to go from an abstraction to a very real threat.”
This kicked off a half-hour piece on the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, an acute respiratory disease spread by respiratory droplets (from coughing or sneezing, and that can live on surfaces for quite some time) that’s resulted in 169,591 cases and 6,518 deaths worldwide so far.
“We are clearly in the midst of a rapidly escalating outbreak, and it’s very difficult to say exactly where things stand—especially because, despite Trump repeatedly claiming otherwise, tests for this virus are still not available in most places to those who need them, which means that we can’t properly track the virus, or know how quickly it’s spreading,” explained Oliver.
Indeed, the Trump administration delayed the production and distribution of novel coronavirus tests—even though, according to reports, the White House knew it was going to be a “major threat,” but Trump “did not push to do aggressive additional testing… partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear—the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall.”
“That is not only catastrophic… it’s also deeply frustrating, especially when you see how quickly other countries, including South Korea, ramped up their testing capabilities,” said Oliver, continuing, “Nothing is fine here. The president’s response has sadly been characterized by disorganization and lies.”
The “all-time low,” according to Oliver, was Trump’s Rose Garden speech on the novel coronavirus, where he shouted out—and shook the hands of—a number of CEOs, despite the fact that he’d been exposed to the virus himself at Mar-a-Lago (though has allegedly tested negative for it since).
In 2018, Trump disbanded the National Security Council’s pandemic unit—the very unit that would have helped contain the novel coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, Trump has said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the virus’ rapid spread, and when he was asked by Yamiche Alcindor of PBS Newshour about that statement, he called it a “nasty question” before blaming other people in his administration for the move.
“Perfect,” replied Oliver. “That is a level of dodging responsibility that Trump has been perfecting ever since he was very much not in Vietnam.”
After giving Trump (and Fox News) the business, Oliver ended on an emotional note: “We’re gonna need to look out for one another… and not just in terms of containing the transmission of this virus, but also the economic impact that this is going to have for people who aren’t prepared to weather it.”
For more, listen and subscribe to The Last Laugh podcast.