The Last Week Tonight host made his final case to Americans on why they should vote Trump out of office.

By Nick Romano
November 02, 2020 at 09:45 AM EST
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John Oliver has covered the coronavirus pandemic a lot on HBO's Last Week Tonight, but he and his creative team felt Sunday night's episode should be re-dedicated to the topic again in light of the coming election.

President Donald Trump has said on various occasions that he would grade himself on his COVID-19 response as "tremendous" and "A-plus," while claiming "nothing more could have been do" even though the United States has 4 percent of the world's population with about a quarter of the world's coronavirus cases. "And if you're thinking, 'Oh come on! Who doesn't believe that Trump f---ed up this pandemic?' the truth is a lot of voters are more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt."

In that spirit, Oliver told his audience, "If you or someone you know also thinks that 'nothing more could've been done,' it would be worth taking a look at three crucial areas where more could very much have been done, specifically preparation, coordination, and communication." Trump's response, he adds, "has been such a disaster that there are massive f--- ups you may have already forgotten. Remember that time he suggested we should leave Americans citizens on a cruise ship ravished with coronavirus because they'd increase the number of positive cases in the country and he liked 'the numbers being where they are'? That was insane, right?!"

In terms of how Trump failed preparation, Oliver noted how "previous presidents had been aware of a threat like this for years." In 2005, President George W. Bush developed a pandemic response plan. In 2014, President Barack Obama delivered a speech about pandemic preparedness, saying how there "may and likely will come a time in which we have both an air-born disease that is deadly." In 2015, Obama launched the Global Health Security and Biodefense unit. Trump's administration then went on to disband Obama's pandemic preparedness team, cut staff from the Center for Disease Control operating in China by more than two-thirds, and ended a pandemic early warning program that trained scientists in other countries to detect and respond to a threat like COVID-19. .

"And even when the pandemic had begun," Oliver said, "Trump took an appallingly long time to take it seriously."

The host reminded his viewers that the first public reports about COVID came out on Dec. 31, 2019 and that Alex Axar, Trump's secretary of health and human services, couldn't get a meeting with the president to discuss the matter until Jan. 18, according to The Washington Post. "Then, Trump continually implied the virus would simply go away despite learning on Feb. 26 that there was community spread in the U.S. — something we might've known sooner had we also not lost a month due to flaws in our testing process that we were extremely slow to fix," Oliver continued. "And yet, despite all of this, Trump loves to claim that it doesn't matter what he didn't do. What really matters is this."

Oliver cut to footage from various public appearances wherein Trump praises himself for putting a travel ban on China. "To listen to Trump tell it, he banned travel from China and job done!" Oliver said, noting how the travel restrictions went into effect two weeks after the U.S. had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 and after 45 other countries had already imposed travel restrictions on China.

"This 'ban' had some major exceptions," Oliver said, "including allowing U.S. citizens, residents, and their immediate family members to still come into the country from China, meaning an additional 40,000 people came in from there came in from there within the first two months that his ban was in place." Mount Sinai Hospital further determined the first cases in New York City, which became an early epicenter of the virus, came primarily by way of Europe and domestic sources. When Trump finally put travel restrictions in place for those countries, it was six weeks after the fact and "it came in a chaotic Oval Office speech where he falsely made it sound like some Americans wouldn't be allowed back into the country, which had predictable consequences."

There is so much more to unpack in Oliver's segment, not to mention journalist Bob Woodward's damning audio tapes of Trump admitting to knowing about the fatal effects of COVID-19 as far back as February.

Watch the video above.

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