In the first post-election episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver criticized the media's coverage of Trump during the campaign, arguing that the lack of fact-checking might ultimately enabled his victory. "For tonight, let's look at just one narrow element that may have helped bring us here, because it will be important going forward — and that is our media," he said.
"Specifically," he added, "how a system that is supposed to catch a serial liar failed. And I'm not just referring to mainstream TV news, although some did wait far too long to take Trump seriously, giving him billions of dollars of free media. CNN, for instance, sometimes ran his speeches almost in their entirety, and their president, Jeff Zucker, now admits that might not have been such a great idea."
Oliver goes on to point out that not all media outlets, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, did a poor job of providing fact-based, well-investigated coverage of our new president-elect. He even praises CNN for eventually changing its course and putting out stories with headlines fact-checking Trump — for example, "Trump: I Never Said Japan Should Have Nukes (He Did)" — but he then points out that these instances of good journalism got lost in a wave of inaccurate stories widely circulated through social media networks.
Oliver plays a clip of MSNBC's Chris Hayes reporting statistics of how many Americans (62 percent) consume their news through social media. Oliver highlights what a strong effect this may have on Americans' perceptions of what the truth is by listing a few of the most widely-shared, false claims that were circulated about the presidential candidates during the 2016 election: a meme featuring a fake quote by Trump referring to Republicans as "the dumbest group of voters in the country;" articles falsely claiming that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump.
"There is now a whole cottage industry specializing in hyper-partisan, sometimes wildly distorted clickbait," Oliver said. "Many Americans logged onto Facebook and every day and saw sh*t like this, and this cesspool of nonsense would be a problem anyway, were it not for the fact that one of the people in thrall to it is our future president."
The comedian points out that Trump is the first president to utilize this kind of fact-less media to his own benefit, as he frequently promoted completely inaccurate stories through Twitter, his rallies, and interviews.
He clarifies that while media with an opinion isn't "inherently bad," media promoting falsehoods for the sake of partisanship is harmful.
Oliver leaves us with a reminder to support journalism by subscribing to our favorite outlets, if we are able; with Trump continuing to tweet contemptuously against newspapers that don't cover him favorably, Oliver couldn't be more right in with his suggestion.