After his monthlong hiatus left viewers to their own devices to comprehend the totality of the twistedness of American politics and cultural tendencies (admittedly, not the hardest feat) and the threat of a jingoistic white supremacist regime we now face, John Oliver is back. He returns at a key moment — with last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight coming one evening before the first Presidential Debate. (Though after the never-ending primary debates, it’s easy to forget that this is actually the first that sees Trump and Clinton squaring off.) Delving once again into the election, or as he calls it, “the electoral equivalent of seeing someone puking so you start puking and then someone else is puking and pretty soon everyone is puking 2016,” Oliver focuses his episode on the amplification of scandal in this election.
The episode features a long rundown of the scandals that have impacted both the Clinton and Trump campaigns — with the aim of underscoring the crazy disproportionality with which people distrust Clinton, given just how much more revolting Trump’s past actions have been. (In polls about candidates’ trustworthiness, neither fares very well, but for whatever reasons — and by whatever reasons, I mean, misogyny — Trump does better than Clinton.)
Oliver first goes into the Clinton scandals, as a means of acknowledging them and getting them out of the way; he notes that some fervent Clinton supporters might be upset by the fact that he’s even mentioning them, given that her competitor is an “unambiguously racist scarecrow stuffed with scrunched up copies of Jugs magazine.” But Oliver’s emphasis is on the need to look at the facts on both sides. Rather than drawing conclusions based on a bipartisan avoidance of facts and a need to totally heroize the candidate you support, Oliver’s approach is to acknowledge, simply, the weight of one candidate’s unscrupulous acts over the other’s — because that‘s actually what reveals the crazy disconnect between reality and sensationalism we’re seeing — and hopefully what will show people just how deeply untrustworthy Donald Trump is compared to Clinton.
He goes into the series of scandals that’ve befallen Clinton’s campaign; he brings up the one very important scandal that certainly exposed an ethical lapse for Clinton…except it isn’t real; he “just made [it] up right now.” He says, “The very fact that for a second you just remembered it says something about the total coverage surrounding things.” He gets into the details of the email scandal and the scandal surrounding the Clinton Foundation. Per his admission, the aspect of that scandal surrounding money accepted from Russia around the time that there was a vote to approve the sale of a uranium mine to country could only sound worse if it contained the words “orifice, shart, butt-chug and Cosby.” Ultimately, however, he details how the donation was actually legal, but just “very annoyingly handled.” No one broke the law, he emphasizes. “The worst thing you can say is [both scandals] look bad, but the harder you look, the less you actually find. There’s not nothing there; what is there is irritating rather than grossly nefarious. And this is where it’s instructive to compare her to her opponent, Donald Trump — America’s wealthiest hemorrhoid.”
First, he notes that Politifact found that analyzed statements from Clinton and Trump over the years, and found that Hillary has made statements that’re false 13% of the time — while Trump’s percentage of false statements was 53%. Yes. 53%. Those numbers alone sheds light on the absurdity of the media’s portrayal of Hillary Clinton as anywhere near as untrustworthy as Trump. “Presumably [Trump’s percentage] is only that low because the rest of the time he was saying things like this,” Oliver says, before cutting to the famous interview in which Trump stated that if Ivanka weren’t his daughter, he’d “probably be dating her.”
Oliver notes that Trump is in fact far less transparent than Hillary — that he’s the first nominee since 1980 not to release his tax returns. (His excuse — about being audited — Oliver explains is actually a non-excuse, as the IRS has said he can still release his returns.) Oliver then discusses the scandal regarding how Trump’s charitable foundation (the Trump Foundation) allegedly spent more than 1/4 million dollars to settle lawsuits that’d been filed against his businesses. It’s the moral equivalent of “catfishing a baby owl,” Oliver says, before noting that Trump’s usage of Foundation funds for expensive self-portraits, as well as its donation to Pam Bondy “around the time she was considering investigating his not-a-university university.” He summarizes all the other scandals — the lawsuits against his “university,” to the supposed using undocumented workers to build Trump Tower, to his father’s massive loan to him that illegally came in the form of chips from Trump’s casino. “This campaign has been dominated by scandals, but it is dangerous to think there is an equal number on both sides,” says Oliver, before being showered in a downpour of raisins, the metaphorical value of which you’ll have to watch the hilarious, incisive and hopefully swaying episode to understand.
Candidates defined more by their ethics than their policies.
“If you are still somehow torn about which one to vote for and are factoring their scandals into your decision, we thought it might help to spend tonight walking you through them.”
“Unambiguously racist scarecrow stuffed with scrunched up copies of Jugs magazine.”
“Not being as bad as