On Sunday night, John Oliver kicked off his Last Week Tonight monologue by addressing the protests that have spread across the nation in response to the captured-on-video killing of George Floyd, who begged and pleaded for his life as then-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin ground his knee into his neck for nine excruciating minutes.
“Look, it’s been a truly brutal week with protests across the country in response to the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police, and there is clearly a lot to discuss here: How these protests are a response to a legacy of police misconduct both in Minneapolis and in the nation at large, and how that misconduct is in and of itself built on a legacy of white supremacy that prioritizes the comfort of white Americans over the safety of people of color,” explained Oliver.
He continued: “There is so much to say here—some of it complicated, much of it all too clear—or, you know, you could just go on TV, open up your mouth, and let this shit fall out.”
Oliver then threw to a clip of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson who, while covering the protests, declared on-air, “Rioting is the one thing you don’t want. Ugly opinions, police brutality, officious birdwatchers, rude and entitled ladies walking their dogs in big-city parks—all of that is bad. But none of it is nearly as bad as what you just saw.”
“OK, first: Fuck you, Tucker,” fired back Oliver. “Second, saying ‘officious birdwatcher’ is deeply offensive, because you’re either trying to both-sides that Central Park incident or insulting fans of this show, who proudly call themselves ‘officious birdwatchers.’ I am the ‘officious bird,’ they are the ‘watchers,’ keep their name out of your mouth.”
Just to add to that, Tucker’s argument that the rage-filled protests responding to a series of murders of unarmed black people, from George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were both killed by police, to Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down in a truck and executed in a modern-day lynching, is worse than the killings themselves speaks volumes about what Tucker values more: insured property over the lives of black civilians.
“But look, for the larger point here, people like Tucker love to venerate order at moments like this, and that’s easy to do when order in its current form is designed to benefit and protect you,” said Oliver. “But it’s hard to overstate how clearly we’ve been reminded lately of the hostility of our existing order toward black people who’ve been killed by police on the street [George Floyd], killed by police in their own home [Breonna Taylor], killed by wannabe police in the street [Ahmaud Arbery], and threatened with state violence while literally birding [Christian Cooper]. And collectively, that has just got to be some brutality bingo right there.”
Tucker is, of course, a person of immense privilege, given that he went to an elite boarding school that costs $58,000 a year, is an heir to the Swanson frozen foods empire, and is paid millions of dollars a year to spew venom on national television. Needless to say, he’s lived an incredibly cloistered, easy life, and has zero frame of reference when it comes to the brutalization of black bodies by the state.
And thus, Oliver concluded: “And when ‘order’ results in you lying face-down on a lawn while your grandma stands between you and the police who have pulled their guns on you after you allegedly just rolled a stop sign [Tye Anders], I can see why being lectured on the importance of ‘order’ at the expense of all else is just not what you want to fucking hear right now!”