John Oliver returned to his “blank void” on Sunday night for another quarantine edition of Last Week Tonight. And the main story of the evening concerned the miniature protests that have been popping up against stay-at-home orders over COVID-19.
And these little misguided protests have been thanks to the dangerous disinformation being pushed by those in the right-wing media who’ve repeatedly downplayed the danger of the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 165,000 people worldwide, including more than 41,000 in the U.S.
There’s Rush Limbaugh—or “A man with millions of listeners, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and almost certainly, a room in his basement that his housekeeper isn’t allowed to go into,” cracked Oliver.
On March 11, Limbaugh said on his radio program, “All of this panic just is not warranted. When I tell you… that this virus is the common cold. When I said that, it was based on the number of cases. It’s also based on the kind of virus this is. Why do you think this is COVID-19? This is the 19th coronavirus!”
“OK, no Rush. Just no,” said Oliver. “It’s called that because it was first identified in 2019, you giant potato.”
He wasn’t finished: “No to your stupid quarantine beard. You look like if Santa was #MeToo’d, kicked out of the North Pole, and forced to move to a condo in Tampa with all linoleum floors.”
Then there’s Fox News, with host Sean Hannity calling it a “hoax” and “hysteria,” and Laura Ingraham calling Democrats “panic pushers” for warning about the potential dangers of the disease.
“When people started dying, and that argument became harder to sell, the network seemed to pivot from trying to downplay the warnings to downplaying the deaths,” Oliver explained, before throwing to Dr. Phil (yes, really), who said on Fox News, “The fact of the matter is…365,000 people [die] from swimming pools but we don’t shut the country down for that!”
“The total number of drownings, period, is around 4,000,” responded Oliver. “Also, if swimming pools were killing 360,000 people a year, and you could contract a swimming pool on a trip to the grocery store, we might want to think about shutting them down until we worked out what the fuck was going on.”
Oliver also pointed out how, while Fox News was “downplaying” the danger of COVID-19, the company suspended all non-essential business travel, encouraged employees to cancel all in-person meeting, and said that they should conduct business via Skype or phone “because,” Oliver said, “they only pretend to believe these things on television for money.”
Oh, and lest we forget white nationalist sympathizer Tucker Carlson, who’s pushed hydroxychloroquine as a likely COVID-19 cure—which was then parroted by Trump. And it wasn’t just Carlson, with Fox News promoting hydroxychloroquine 300 times in a two-week period, with Laura Ingraham “even visiting Trump at the White House earlier this month to advocate for the drug.”
Unfortunately, the medical community has cast serious doubt on the initial study pumping up hydroxychloroquine. The drug can trigger arrhythmia, which can cause fatal heart attacks in patients; and those with lupus, who have been taking hydroxychloroquine for years to treat their condition, are now struggling to get it.
“Thanks to this media frenzy, the efficacy of this drug, which should be a scientific issue, has become a political one. Anyone saying they want more comprehensive studies can be dismissed by the right as a ‘Trump hater,’” said Oliver, before summing up all the madness accordingly:
“We have a compulsive liar [Trump] constantly listening to voices telling him that this is nothing more than the common cold, with potentially a 100-percent cure available, and that there’s already a great plan to restart baseball even as there’s a swimming pool killing spree that for some reason nobody’s talking about.”
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