HBO's John Oliver: Trump Battle Plan for Corona Is 'for Him to Live' as 'a Lot of Us Die'

May 12th, 2020 1:40 PM

John Oliver is not subtle. As he trashed the Trump administration’s response to Coronavirus, the HBO host seized on the fact that the Guns N’ Roses cover of the song “Live and Let Die” played in the background while Donald Trump toured a factory making face masks. Oliver spent a considerable portion of Sunday’s edition of Last Week Tonight arguing that the song epitomizes the Trump strategy for battling Coronavirus: Allowing “him to live while letting a lot of us die.”

Oliver scolded Trump for not wearing a mask as he toured the Honeywell factory. The host highlighted the clip of “Live and Let Die,” describing that song as “about as on-the-nose a soundtrack choice as you can possibly get without playing the Dead Kennedys’ Kill the Poor.”



After the video concluded, Oliver praised Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose’s “incredible” Twitter exchange with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom he referred to as an “a**hole.” Oliver proceeded to argue that letting stay-at-home orders expire “will almost certainly put American lives at risk” and slammed Trump for his “new tactic” to “frame that a positive” by referring to the American people as “warriors.”

While Oliver seems convinced that ending stay-at-home orders will lead to an outbreak of Coronavirus deaths and infections, the facts tell a slightly different story. Georgia, one of the first states to begin reopening, reported the lowest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since it began keeping track two weeks after the state began easing its lockdown. Meanwhile, in New York, 66 percent of those hospitalized with Coronavirus were people staying home; not essential workers. Since this information does not advance the narrative that Trump wants people to die, it did not make it into Oliver’s monologue.

The left-wing comedian concluded his rant by declaring “Our wartime President has decided that the only way to win this war is to draft every one of us, hide our battle plans, and hope that we’re all brave enough not to notice that we’ve already surrendered. Or to put it much more succinctly...his plan to steer us through this pandemic is for him to live while letting a lot of us die.” For their part, Oliver and his media colleagues have their own plan to steer us through this pandemic: blame everything on Trump.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Last Week Tonight is below. Click “expand” to read more.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver


11:04 PM

JOHN OLIVER: It was another busy week for the White House, although refreshingly, one of the biggest pieces of news was not actually Coronavirus related.


PIERRE THOMAS: 29 months after leaving this courthouse in shame following pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, the Justice Department that convicted Michael Flynn now seeking to throw out the case.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: A crime cannot be established here. They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Does the fact remain that he lied?

BARR: Well, you know, people sometimes plead to things that turn out not to be crimes.


OLIVER: Yeah, that’s true. Sometimes, people do plead to things that turn out not to be crimes. But sometimes they plead to things that are, like, I don’t know, lying to the FBI; which is, in a very real sense, a fucking crime. It would have been different if Flynn had pled guilty to, let’s say, constantly displaying the facial expression of someone whose lunch burrito isn’t sitting quite right, or looking like G.I. Joe’s emotionally withholding father. Those aren’t crimes. Lying to the FBI, however, very much is. Especially when you consider that what Flynn was lying about was his contacts with a Russian official and the FBI was in the midst of a Russian counterintelligence investigation. And all of this is particularly worrying because this was a case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and the whole point of having a Special Counsel investigate was to keep the process free from conflicts of interest. By dropping these charges, Barr could be setting a dangerous precedent, that a president could not just pardon the subject of an investigation but have his appointees invalidate the investigation itself. It’s a truly unheard-of thing for an Attorney General to do, but Barr really doesn’t seem to give a fuck.


HERRIDGE: When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written?

BARR: Well, history’s written by the winners, so it largely depends on, on...who’s writing the history.


OLIVER: Wow! Now, if I were the President’s lackey trying to twist the justice system to his will, I might have answered that simple question with something like “history will show this was the right decision,” or “it was a tough call but justice was served.” It takes a special kind of arrogance for the nation’s top law enforcement official to say, “Actually, history is a lie we tell ourselves as we fall asleep at night, the world is nothing but formless chaos, and there is no truth but that which the strong impose upon the weak. You get it, right? You definitely get it.” Now, as for the President himself, he spent the week continuing to manage the optics on his inability to manage the Coronavirus, even traveling to a mask factory, where he made the conspicuous choice not to wear a mask; prompting an entirely reasonable question the next day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, yesterday we went to Arizona, and you had said before the trip that you would likely wear a mask at the mask factory. You ended up not wearing one.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I actually did have one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn’t see you with a mask on.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I…I can’t help it if you didn’t see me.


OLIVER: What are you talking about? “I can’t help it if you didn’t see me?” Of course you can. It’s a photo op. The whole point is to show them the thing that you’re supposed to be doing. Still, I will say this, for all of Trump’s ideological wavering over the years, one thing has remained consistent: He’s never used protection, and he’s never not been an asshole about it afterwards. But Trump’s refusal to wear a face mask, despite the fact that since April 3, the CDC has recommended everyone wear them, seems especially unwise; given that multiple White House staffers have now tested positive, which, in turn, makes one of the music choices for that mask factory tour even grimmer.


TONY STALLINGS, HONEYWELL: This is the material that traps the particulates...



OLIVER: Yeah. That was the Guns N’ Roses cover of the song “Live and Let Die,” which is about as on-the-nose a soundtrack choice as you can possibly get without playing the Dead Kennedys’ “Kill the Poor.” And it’s a weird choice of song no matter what, but it’s especially weird given that Axl Rose is no fan of this administration; even tweeting the very next day, “It’s official! Whatever anyone may have previously thought of Steve Mnuchin he’s officially an asshole.” Which kicked off an incredible exchange in which Mnuchin responded by writing, “What have you done for your country lately,” accompanied by the Liberian flag, to which Axl Rose then replied, in a single sentence, “My bad I didn’t get we’re hoping 2 emulate Liberia’s economic model but on the real unlike this admin I’m not responsible for 70k plus deaths n’ unlike u I don’t hold a federal government position of responsibility 2 the American people n’ go on TV tellin them to travel to the U.S. during a pandemic.” And there are many amazing things about that, but most of all, you’ve got to respect Axl’s commitment to the “n’.” I bet he takes his coffee with milk n’ sugar. When he gets dressed, he likes to put on a t-shirt n’ kilt. And I bet his favorite book is “Harry Potter n’ the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Because he’s a professional, and his art is his life. But unfortunately, Trump’s cavalier attitude seems to be trickling down, because some states are now letting stay-at-home orders expire; even though many of them don’t meet the federal guidelines suggesting they only reopen once cases begin to decline. And while that will almost certainly put American lives at risk, Trump’s new tactic is to frame that as a positive.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: All people are warriors in this country. Right now, we’re all warriors. You’re warriors, we’re warriors. You can be with somebody, everything’s fine, and then something happens to that person, and all of a sudden, you test positive. And we’re all warriors together. I am. You are. We all are.


OLIVER: Oh, are we? That’s interesting. Because we don’t actually have to be warriors here. And to the extent that we are, you don’t need to be throwing us into battle unarmed before we have mechanisms set up to broadly test, isolate, and trace cases of the virus. You can’t just call everyone “warriors” and make their deaths not count. You get the sense that, if God had told Trump about the flood, he wouldn’t have bothered building the ark, he would have just tried to convince the animals they’re all fish. “We’re all fish together now. I’m a fish, you’re a fish, we’re all fish.” And Trump’s allies are behind him on this call to action. One of his favorite Fox News hosts, Pete Hegseth, seen here showing off the carcass of an American flag that he murdered, took that idea and he ran with it.


PETE HEGSETH: I do think you’re gonna need that kind of ethos and that spirit to put freedom before fear. Healthy people getting out there, they’re going to have to have some courage. And I…so I think that spirit, the American spirit frankly, is…is in full supply and ready to go.


OLIVER: Oh, yeah, the American spirit is absolutely in full supply, if by “American spirit,” you mean “ghosts.” Because we’re churning out ghosts like it’s 1918, baby. We’re positively swimming in ectoplasm right here. I’m telling you, if you could wipe your ass with ghosts, the American people would truly want for nothing right now. The thing is, all this talk of Americans being “brave warriors” seems designed to make us accept deaths that we should be trying to prevent. And yet this administration seems, at times, to be actively hostile to those prevention efforts, to the point that, on Thursday, we learned this.


JONATHAN KARL: As the President urges states to reopen, the CDC has prepared a draft roadmap to help restaurants, schools, churches, and others to do it safely. But today, we learned the White House has rejected that draft.

ATHENA JONES: The Associated Press, who was first to report the administration’s hold on the guidelines, saying a CDC official told them the agency’s scientists were told the document would “never see the light of day.”


OLIVER: Wow. “Never see the light of day.” It is hard to imagine how just draconian that is, or at least it was before “never seeing the light of day” became the only thing on all our schedules. Honestly, tell me, what does the sun look like? Does it have cool shades and an
attitude, or was that just something that we made up in the past? Because I sincerely can’t remember. So, this is where we are right now: Our wartime President has decided the only way to win this war is to draft every one of us, hide our battle plans, and hope that we’re all brave enough not to notice that we’ve already surrendered. Or, to put it much more succinctly, and to quote what seems to be one of his favorite songs, his plan to steer us through this pandemic is for him to live while letting a lot of us die.