On Sunday evening, prior to airing the latest taping of his Emmy-winning program Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver addressed the audience with a message in the wake of the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that have left 31 people dead and dozens more injured.
“Before we start our show tonight… as I’m sure you’re aware, America has just seen two mass shootings within 24 hours—in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. And while it’s still very early, I just feel like there are a couple of points that seem worth mentioning here,” the comedian said.
“First, when it comes to gun control, I know it can feel like everything’s been said before… but while the depressingly familiar numbness that we may be currently feeling can help you handle the pain in the short term, in the long term, it can actually be a real problem—because unless something hurts as much as it’s supposed to, nothing gets done about it. And something has got to be done here. And not just about guns,” he continued.
The late-night host then, with tears welling up in his eyes, pinned some of the blame for the shootings on the xenophobic rhetoric of President Trump, who kicked off his presidential run by branding Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, and has since referred to migrants crossing the southern border as an “invasion” thousands of times.
“The El Paso shooting is currently being investigated as a hate crime, and the shooter’s manifesto featured anti-immigrant language that may well be familiar to you from certain cable networks and certain presidents,” Oliver explained, flashing a picture of Trump on the screen. “And clearly, white nationalism and anti-immigrant hysteria did not start with this president, but he certainly seems to create an environment where those kinds of views can fester and indeed thrive.”
He added, “In fact, just three months ago, as he was deliberately winding up a crowd with the image of 15,000 immigrants marching toward the border, this happened.”
Oliver then threw to a clip of Trump at a May rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, where he laughed away a comment from an audience member about shooting immigrants.
“How do you stop these people? You can’t!” Trump exclaimed. When someone in the rally crowd yelled, “Shoot them!,” he chuckled and responded, “That’s only in the Panhandle that you can get away with that stuff! Only in the Panhandle!”
“Yeah, but here is the thing about that: It is not only in the Panhandle where you can get away with that statement,” said Oliver. “You can now get away with it all over the country, and, as he just made painfully clear, in any room the actual president is in—which is absolutely appalling, and that is something we cannot afford to get numb to, because if that ever, for even a moment, feels like it’s become normal, we are completely fucked.”