John Oliver Criticizes Trump Over "Lies" About Coronavirus

Referring to what he called the president's history of "low-stakes lies," the 'Last Week Tonight' host said "there is a difference between lying about something that means literally nothing, and lying about the spread of a deadly disease."
Courtesy of HBO

John Oliver used most of Sunday night's Last Week Tonight to address the coronavirus crisis.

During the segment, he brought up various fears and misconceptions about the virus, which led him to address Trump's response to the spread of the illness.

He noted how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it's not a matter of "if, but when" the virus will spread in the U.S. At the same time, "one of Trump's top advisers" was on TV saying that "we have contained this. I won't say airtight, but pretty close to airtight."

Replied Oliver: "Well, which is it? Because airtight versus close to airtight is a pretty crucial distinction. It's the difference between having a working submarine and a cool metal tube to die in."

Oliver also played a clip from a press conference in which he said he was putting Vice President Mike Pence "in charge" of a task force managing the crisis, which led to some confusion among the reporters about whether Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar was still overseeing the government's response to the crisis.

"Trump didn't seem interested in clarifying their roles, or, indeed, really being there at all," Oliver said, showing a clip of Trump walking out of the press conference amid the confusion.

As Azar denied that he was being replaced in response to a reporter's question, Trump gave a wave and quickly left the White House briefing room.

"He just left," Oliver said. "This was a press conference meant to calm the nation, and with the most basic question of who would be running things seemingly up in the air, he just fucked right off," Oliver said. "I know we used to only see 'Businessman Trump,' but it is nice to occasionally get a glimpse of the absentee father in him, too."

Oliver also brought up Trump's history of what he called "low-stakes lies," including a tweet from Feb. 24 in which Trump declared that "the Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA."

Said Oliver: "But there was no way to be sure of that, as he frankly should have known. Many of the test kits the CDC initially developed to test the virus did not work as expected, meaning that as recently as Wednesday, the CDC and only six state labs were testing for the virus."

Oliver also showed clips of Azar and Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that more cases can be expected in the U.S., followed by Trump predicting that the number of cases will be "down to close to zero" in a matter of days.

"You can't just ignore real numbers and make up ones that you like better," Oliver said. "This is the problem with a president whose entire life has been a series of low-stakes lies. A man who has lied about, among other things, his net worth, his Apprentice ratings, the number of floors in Trump Tower, the size of his Electoral College victory, the attendance at his rallies, whether it rained at his inaugural, and even whether or not he was invited on this 'very boring and low-rated show,' which he wasn't," Oliver said, quoting one of Trump's tweets from 2015. "He wasn't. It was a lie. But there is a difference between lying about something that means literally nothing, and lying about the spread of a deadly disease."