Watch John Oliver Put Trump's Non-Disavowal Of White Supremacists Into Baffling Historical Context
Last Week Tonight wasn't exactly the laugh fest that you've come to expect, because this week John Oliver had to tackle the truly disturbing events that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend. Perhaps most depressingly, Oliver pointed out that previous presidents fought the Nazis — and now Trump won't even directly condemn them.
Oliver really lit into the president, saying that Trump was "feeding" white supremacist groups by refusing to directly speak out against them and their violent actions over the weekend. In his only public response so far to the rally and ensuing violence, Trump spoke out against "hatred, bigotry, and violence that's on many sides" — without directly mentioning the white nationalism that was behind it.
Oliver's most impassioned monologue against the president came later in his opening segment, though, when he drew on the nation's history of directly fighting against the ideology that so chillingly displayed itself over the weekend:
Trump's first response is who he is ... there is clearly no point in waiting for leadership from our president in 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*cking condemn them.
British though he may be, Oliver gets his American history right here. It hardly needs saying that two presidents served during World War II, sending thousands of American soldiers into danger in order to stop the spread of Nazism. And then there were the American presidents who actually served in the armed forces during World War II, and it's not a short list: Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.
Trump, on the other hand, avoided military service and has disrespected those who did serve multiple times. Now, he's disrespecting the seven former presidents and thousands of other Americans who helped prevent Hitler from carrying out his final solution by failing to condemn that poisonous ideology.
As Oliver noted in his show, Trump had multiple chances to say anything, anything condemning white nationalism or Nazis specifically — and he failed to do so each time. Instead of sinking what should have been an extraordinarily easy shot, Trump "threw an airball so far away that it landed in the Third Reich." In case it needed to be clearer, Oliver went on, saying that "it doesn’t get much easier than disavowing Nazis. It’s almost as much as a presidential gimme as pardoning a f*cking turkey. It is almost impossible to screw it up, but that’s exactly what happened."
Perhaps he'll come out with another statement later, but that seems unlikely at this point. So, as Oliver said, we'll just have to look to one another.