'Last Week Tonight' Host John Oliver Takes on NRA in Wake of Mass Shootings

The host, who last week made a plea for gun control at the top of his HBO show, also criticized President Trump for his comments while visiting El Paso, site of one of last week's tragedies.
Courtesy of HBO

John Oliver devoted his opening segment on Sunday's Last Week Tonight to criticizing the NRA in the wake of last weekend's mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.

The host, who last week made a plea for gun control at the top of his HBO show, first criticized President Trump for his recent visits to Dayton and El Paso.

"Some of President Trump's own aides are conceding his visit to two cities in mourning didn't go as planned after new video shows him bragging about crowd sizes while at a hospital in El Paso," Oliver said.

In the video, Trump says: "I was here three months ago.… We had twice the number outside and…Beto (O'Rouke) had like 400 people in a parking lot. They said his crowd was wonderful."

Said Oliver: "Look, we all know how much Trump struggles to do the bare minimum of being a president, but it's still genuinely shocking just how much he struggles to do the bare minimum of being a fucking person. Because just consider the thought process that happened there. He visited a hospital filled with victims of a mass shooting and thought to himself, 'Remember that other time when I was the center of attention and it was better?' And then he thought, 'Do you think anyone else remembers that?' And then he thought, 'I should remind them, right?' Then he thought, 'Great idea.' Then he thought, 'Thank you.' Then he thought, 'Ivanka.' Then he thought, 'No time.' And he was happy with how it sounded."

Oliver, who has been critical of the NRA in the past, then said that pressure appears to be mounting on politicians to take action on gun violence and gun reform. He showed another video, this one of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaking at a vigil in Dayton, where the crowd was heard shouting over his remarks, "Do something!"

Said Oliver: "You know you're doing a bad job when people are yelling, 'Do something' at you, not even, 'Try a different position' or 'Like that, but to the left,' just 'Do something,' the universal complaint for men putting in less than zero percent everywhere."

Oliver went on to note that the NRA remains a "key obstacle" to gun reform, but that the organization is "currently in the midst of an internal shit show." He added that federal investigators last year were looking into "whether a Russian agent had used the NRA to infiltrate Republican politics, which is already comfortably bad enough, but then the New York State AG started looking into their tax-exempt status because the NRA is technically a nonprofit, and it turns out there's been some very suspicious expenditures."

He cited a news report wherein it was reported that leaked documents show that NRA chief Wayne LaPierre may have misused $300,000 in member dues to buy designer clothes and on "lavish travel expenses," all while the organization has been operating a deficit of up to $14 million and cut out free coffee for staffers at its headquarters and froze their pension plans.

Oliver also showed video of a news report saying that LaPierre had asked the NRA to buy him a $6 million home in Texas in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting because he feared for his safety.

"So putting aside the head of the NRA claiming he needs a mansion because other people got shot, the housing question is ludicrous," Oliver said. "Because the NRA didn't buy it, it's still listed on Zillow, which is how we know it contains four bedrooms and nine bathrooms, which is objectively too many bathrooms."

He also noted that "board members are also now questioning the large amount paid to the group's ad agency Ackerman McQueen, which was responsible for creating and running NRA TV. We actually talked about it last year and it was always something weird going on with that because its shows look both expensive and made for no one, and more, NRA TV has since been shut down, there's a part of me — the part that's lying — that will really miss it because it means there will be no more episodes of my favorite shows like Love at First Shot. A show aimed at women, where one episode was focused on the most stylish way to concealed carry."

Oliver showed a clip from the series supporting this statement.

He then continued: "Obviously, the death of NRA TV is a tragedy — 'thoughts and prayers' to all those affected — but the bottom line here is that for the first time in a while, things are not actually looking great for the NRA. So does this mean that gun control could finally happen? Mitch McConnell has hinted at action on background checks, but he's also refused to recall the Senate and might well be hoping that by the time he's back in session, the pressure will be off."

He wrapped up by making his case on what he believes needs to happen for gun reform to take place.

"The president has said that he's willing to stand up to the NRA, but he's also one, a liar, and two, likely to identify with an organization that has spent itself into colossal debt, has troubling ties to Russia and is associated with shitty TV programs and very bad taste," he said. "I guess what I'm really saying here is, a weakened NRA is nice, sure. But the only way things are really going to change is if lawmakers continue to feel the pressure to, and if I may quote that Ohio crowd, 'Do something.'"