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John Oliver dedicated his first Last Week Tonight of 2017 to President Donald Trump, asking viewers four questions: “How did we get a pathological liar in the White House? Where are his lies coming from? Why do so many people believe him? And what can we possibly do about it?”
As Oliver explained, Trump “has a well-documented, 40-year history of bullsh–. He lied about being invited on this show, and about the ratings for the Celebrity Apprentice, he pretended to be his own publicist, even his building — Trump Tower — is not as big as he says it is.” (While Trump Tower is listed as having 68 floors, it actually has 58.)
According to the host, while many brushed off Trump’s campaign rhetoric as “nonsense” and “Donald being Donald,” the president was saying things he meant throughout the election cycle — including that he will build a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border.
“When he says he’s going to build a wall, he means it,” Oliver said. “It might be 30-feet high and labeled 156 stories, but assume that it’s coming. It was worth taking him seriously. Trump was telling the truth about his solutions to the problems he was lying about. He’s now making real policy based on fake facts.”
Oliver devoted a large chunk of his 23-minute segment to the sources Trump listens to for information — not just Fox News and other cable news outlets, but Breitbart (which Trump advisor and former Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon called “a platform for the alt-right”) and Info Wars (a fringe show hosted by 9/11 and Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones). On Last Week Tonight, Oliver showed video of Trump using a Breitbart headline to defend his false claim that “thousands” of Muslim people celebrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New Jersey. The host also played footage of Trump appearing on Jones’ show in 2015, saying, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”
Said Oliver, “This is really dangerous, though. Because there is a pattern here: Trump sees something that jibes with his worldview, doesn’t check it, half-remembers it, and then passes it on. At which point it takes on a life of its own and appears to validate itself.”
So what does Oliver plan to do about how President Trump receives news and then disseminates it to the general public? “There is one small way we wanted to try and sneak some useful facts into his media diet,” Oliver said. “As we now know, he watches morning cable news for information. So we’ve actually created a series of commercials in an attempt to bring him up to speed on some information he may lack. We’re going to run them on shows we know he watches every day.” The host said he planned to air the spots — which were shot in the style of the low-budget advertisements that run on cable news — on Fox, MSNBC, and CNN each day between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Watch the full segment above — the commercials start around the 21:30 mark.
Last Week Tonight airs Sundays at 11 p.m. on HBO.