9:52am PT by Katherine Schaffstall
John Oliver Critiques Fox News' Coverage of Mueller Investigation
On this week's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver focused on Fox News' coverage of the ongoing Mueller investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“We thought we’d update you on the ongoing Trump administration scandals that we’ve been calling ‘Stupid Watergate,’” began Oliver, “a scandal potentially on the scale of Watergate, but where everyone involved is dumb and terrible and bad at everything.”
Specifically, he turned his lens on the effort by Trump, his lawyers and his "TV friends" to "actively undermine" the investigation, which the president repeatedly calls a "witch hunt."
The host then explained why it’s important to keep up with what happens when Trump's high-profile supporters talk about the investigation on TV. “Basically, when Giuliani goes on TV, he’s arguing to the jury and that is us. And I know you’re probably thinking right now, ‘Fuck. Jury duty. Time to act like a racist idiot to get out of it,’” said Oliver. “Well, that is not a disqualifier this time. Not by a long shot.”
First Oliver highlighted how Fox News anchors and Trump officials repeatedly talk about "collusion" as the focus of the investigation, but Oliver explained that Mueller wasn’t tasked with finding proof of collusion. “In actuality he was tasked with looking into links and coordination between the Russian government and anyone associated with the Trump campaign, as well as any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Oliver concluded, “So saying the investigation has to shut down if there’s no collusion is like saying a game of Scrabble has to end because you fit all the letters in your mouth.”
Oliver also argued that Fox News tends to use “whataboutism” when covering stories, which means that they shift the debate to focus on the wrongdoings of someone else. “The master of this is Sean Hannity and he responds to any negative news about Trump with epic rounds of the 'what about game,'” said Oliver. The host shared a clip of Hannity pointing out the wrongs of 15 people besides Trump. “That is a lot of names to throw up on a screen and say what about them? It’s also a little easy as an argument,” he said before throwing names like Harry Connick Jr., Cher and Pink onto a board of his own and asking “What about them?”
“Hannity’s point there is that other people did bad things, so therefore Trump’s bad things don’t count, and look, let me be clear on this, whether or not someone else did something shitty has no bearing on whether you did something shitty,” said Oliver. “If that were true, every movie that got a bad review could simply say, ‘What about From Justin to Kelly?’ And the critic would be legally required to give their movie five stars.”
Oliver argued that Fox News also frames the investigation as a counternarrative, in which it is used as a way to take Trump down.
Oliver used that approach to explain Hannity's coverage of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, FBI agents who worked on the investigations of both Trump and Hillary Clinton, and who were having an affair. “The key thing you learn about them, if you follow conservative media at all, is that they were making sex at each other,” said Oliver before showing clips Fox News’ coverage about the agents. Though it was found that Strzok and Page had no conspiracy to take down Trump, Hannity still depicts the two as threats to the president.
Oliver also poked fun at Hannity's advertisers, noticing how he frequently said another investigation “makes Watergate look like stealing a Snickers bar."
“That’s just an odd number of mentions for Snickers considering it doesn’t sponsor Hannity’s show. Presumably Snickers simply couldn’t hang with big hitters like his actual advertisers My Pillow, RectiCare cream," said Oliver. An advertisement for the last sponsor then showed people struggling to put on socks before discovering the product. “Thank goodness. I have been waiting for someone to invent a gadget that I can preload with a sock condom and then foot fuck my way to comfort every morning.”
Oliver also highlighted Hannity saying that even if the media finds "proof that this is not a witch hunt," he won't believe it.
“He’s basically bragging that he’s proof-proof,” Oliver joked.
The Last Week Tonight host also highlighted Hannity's coverage of Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian government attorney, who promised to incriminate Clinton. After the Fox News host took issue with the attorney knowing Hillary Clinton, Oliver broke down his theory: “So let me get this one straight. You seem to be implying Hillary Clinton sent someone into Trump Tower to offer her opponent dirt on herself,” said Oliver. “Congratulations Sean Hannity. You have officially come up with the shittiest conspiracy theory ever.”
“And none of this even addresses the most obvious question. If absolutely everyone from Hillary to the FBI to Trey Gowdy was in on a deep state plan to sabotage Trump, how the fuck is he president right now?” said Oliver. “Basically everyone in the country got together to steal an election and for some reason forgot to do it.”
Oliver concluded the segment by comparing Trump to O.J. Simpson. “The reason Hannity throws out so many theories may well be that he knows if he can discredit any part of Mueller’s investigation, he can convince people the whole thing is a sham. And that is the same angle O.J.’s lawyers took,” he said.