John Oliver has joined a number of celebrities, politicians, and activists condemning President Donald Trump for his failure to call out the white supremacists who gathered at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday by name — after one of them killed a counter protestor and injured 19 others with his car.
Speaking at a podium during a press event in New Jersey on Saturday, Trump said in part, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence — on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a very long time.”
“Wait, on many sides?” Oliver said in response to Trump’s statement. “This was a white nationalist rally, you have to call that out by name. There honestly aren’t many instances in modern American politics where you can honestly think, ‘That guy really should have mentioned the Nazis,’ but this is emphatically one of them. It’s like a reverse Godwin’s Law: If you fail to mention Nazism, you lose the argument.”
Oliver added of Trump’s claim that “it’s been going on for a long time in our country,” “It seems Trump’s response to anything bad happening is always to immediately absolve himself of any personal responsibility. He’s the kind of guy who starts eulogies at funerals, saying, ‘Great guy, I didn’t kill him, but he’s a great guy and he’s dead — and I didn’t do it.'”
HBO has yet to officially release a clip of Oliver’s Charlottesville segment, but you can watch a fan-recorded snippet below.
The HBO personality turned his attention to former KKK leader David Duke, who said Saturday that the white nationalists were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. … that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Responded Oliver, “I’ve got to say, David Duke and the Nazis really seem to like Donald Trump. Which is weird because Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them. … And that kind of connection there is something that anyone in their right mind would want to immediately and repeatedly disavow, and it’s not like Trump wasn’t given the opportunity.”
Noting how Trump turned his back on reporters asking about the support he gets from white supremacists, Oliver noted, “A non-answer in a moment like this is an answer.” Oliver then played a clip from CNN of Jake Tapper reading from a prominent neo-Nazi blog that praised Trump’s comments: “He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
In response, Oliver read a mock statement from “God” disavowing the Nazi support: “What kind of f—ing idiot would not immediately distance himself from them?”
Even if Trump were to offer a revised statement specifically condemning white supremacists, Oliver thinks it would be too late “because his first response is who he is. And the truly infuriating thing is how completely predictable this was.”
“It simply doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis,” he concluded. “It’s as much of a presidential gimme as pardoning a f—ing turkey. It is almost impossible to screw it up. But that’s exactly what happened. So there is clearly no point waiting for leadership from our president at moments like this, because it is just not coming, which means we will have to look to one another, because incredibly, in a country where previous presidents have actually had to defeat Nazis, we now have one who cannot even be bothered to f—ing condemn them.”