John Oliver Rips Into Trump for ‘Failed’ Coronavirus Response in Triumphant Late-Night Return

Marlow Stern
HBO

“I’m shooting this at home, alone, with no one else in the room. So you won’t hear any laughter tonight,” began John Oliver. “Please don’t feel that’s at all awkward—it certainly isn’t for me, though I started comedy doing stand-up in England, so I am more than used to doing jokes to silence.”

Following a one-week hiatus, the Last Week Tonight host returned for his first “official” episode since the COVID-19 lockdown left most Americans indoors, practicing social distancing to help prevent further spread of the virus.

And rather than tee off on, say, irresponsible cable-news anchors, the comedian dedicated the majority of his half-hour show to President Trump’s downright dangerous coronavirus response.

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“We now have more confirmed coronavirus cases than any country in the world… and the president has only recently seemed to realize the gravity of the situation,” Oliver explained. “As recently as a month ago, he was saying we have it ‘very much under control,’ adding, ‘Stock market starting to look very good to me!’ before abruptly shifting gears to claim that he ‘felt it was a pandemic’ long before it was called one.”

Oliver then threw to a clip of Trump during a presser proudly proclaiming: “I’m a wartime president. This is a war. This is a war. Different kind of a war than we’ve ever had.”

“Yeah, I guess it is different, isn’t it? It’s like World War II, only the enemy is invisible; or like the Vietnam War, only this time, Trump is actually taking part,” cracked the host, mocking how Trump dodged the Vietnam draft by claiming he had heel spurs.

Then there’s the matter of Trump saying he wanted people to return to work by Easter—against the advice of virtually every health care expert.

“On Tuesday, our ‘wartime president’ seemed to already be considering giving up the fight and encouraging everyone to go back to work,” said Oliver, cutting to Trump telling reporters, “I’d love to have it open by Easter. I will tell you that right now. It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’ll make it an important day for this too.”

“The date he’s setting is just two weeks from now, which is objectively way too soon,” offered Oliver, adding, “Although if you are going to pick a holiday to break a quarantine, you could do a lot worse than one honoring the time that Jesus was supposed to stay inside, and didn’t.”

“It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate just how irresponsible that attitude is,” he continued. “Because we wasted so much time that we could have spent preparing, the virus is now widespread. And thanks to how we have massively botched the rollout of testing for the virus, we still don’t know how bad things are. So strict social-distancing measures are our best shot at slowing this outbreak.”

“Trump has failed to give this crisis the seriousness it requires,” Oliver said later on. “This was always going to be hard, but it didn’t have to be this hard.”

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