John Oliver tore into Donald Trump’s “pathetic, dangerous” refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory on Last Week Tonight, after two weeks of the president’s attempts to delegitimize the results of the election with baseless claims of voter fraud, backed by most congressional Republicans. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, for example, said Trump is “100% within his rights” to challenge the election result, and chastised Democrats on the Senate floor for “any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election”.
“First, no one expected Trump to immediately, cheerfully accept the results,” Oliver countered. “He’s incapable of cheerfully accepting anything apart from blowjobs, Nazi endorsements and the opportunity to scream inside a stranger’s truck,” to harken back to a photo-op from two years or what feels like two decades ago.
Furthermore, Democrats in Washington never refused to accept the election results in 2016: Hillary Clinton formally conceded the morning after election day, and Obama hosted Trump in the White House the day after that. “And yet Republicans are trying to defend their support for Trump’s indefensible behavior,” Oliver continued. One senior White House official asked the Washington Post: “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” which Oliver called “a question that never ends well, whether the ones asking it are overworked parents who need a break or the Weimar Republic”.
The Trump campaign and its television surrogates on Fox News have lobbed numerous unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud before, during and after the election, and “if you’re a casual viewer of rightwing media, you might think, ‘Well, there must be something here, they wouldn’t be going to all this trouble over nothing’”, Oliver said. “But the thing is, they are. This really is nothing.”
Oliver summarily disproved Trump voter fraud claims from Pennsylvania to Georgia to Michigan – “I could spend the rest of this show debunking stories,” he said. “The problem is, it’s endless” and often nonsensical. “And who knows why Republicans are entertaining this – maybe it’s the fact that Georgia has two Senate runoffs coming up and they want to keep Trump happy so he’ll help rally voters for him there,” Oliver added. “Maybe they’re currying favor with him because they’re worried he’ll be a power broker going forward, I don’t know. What I do know is that the answer to the question ‘what is the downside of humoring him?’ is a lot.”
The Trump administration’s refusal to acknowledge the election’s outcome prevents Biden from receiving high-level intelligence reports or accessing funds for his transition team. More pressingly, it blocks Trump officials from sharing critical details of a distribution plan for a Covid vaccine with Biden’s team. As cases surge to new records across the country heading into the holiday season, “you really want the new team handling the pandemic to be able to talk to the old team,” said Oliver, “even if, as I suspect, the old team’s plan was just a single white board in Jared’s office with nothing on it other than ‘discover cure?’ circled five times and then a drawing of Donald Trump saying: ‘Good job, new son.’”
Many of Trump’s election fraud claims are laughable or ridiculous, Oliver continued, but “the fact is, a lot of people believe stuff like that. And when you continually insist that the election was stolen in big cities and suggest that remedying this calls for the ‘biggest fight since the civil war’,” to quote a video retweeted by Trump of the actor Jon Voight comparing contesting Biden to battling Satan, “things start to get deadly serious.” Earlier this month, two armed men were arrested outside the Philadelphia convention center, where city officials were counting ballots. One of the city’s commissioners, a Republican, told CBS news that the vote-counting center had received threatening phone calls “reminding us that ‘this is what the second amendment is for’”.
It’s clear, Oliver said in response to the situation in Philadelphia, that “Trump is playing a dangerous game here, because there’s a huge difference between ‘not my president’ and ‘not the president’. And to be clear, people who are that angry are not riling themselves up in a vacuum. They’ve been fed a steady diet of misinformation, bullshit fraud claims, and a victim narrative from outlets like Fox News, Newsmax, OANN and, most importantly, Trump himself.”
Trump’s continued propagation of election conspiracy theories via Twitter since the election are an “appropriate coda to a presidency that has destroyed so many lives”, said Oliver. “So many of us have lost loved ones, either because you can no longer square your love for them with their love for him, or because they fell down a mind-melting rabbit hole of conspiracy theories that he happily perpetuated, or because he let a deadly virus run wild, and it fucking killed them.
“And now, as a parting gift to the country,” he concluded, “Trump is somehow managing to divide us even further while also hobbling his successor at the worst possible time, which is absolutely unforgivable.”