John Oliver on Trump's Charlottesville response: 'There's no point waiting for leadership'

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver addressed the events in Charlottesville this weekend and Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn violence at the hands of white supremacists and neo-Nazis

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver addressed this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car plowed into crowds of people protesting a white nationalist rally, and the president’s failure to condemn the violence by name.

“Sadly, we must begin with the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one person was killed and 19 injured after a car plowed into protesters following a rally of white nationalists,” Oliver began. “It was truly a weekend of horrifying images. We saw Nazi flags and marchers carrying torches. Tiki torches, by the way, because nothing says white nationalist quite like faux-Polynesian kitsch.

“A protester being killed in the wake of neo-Nazis marching in the streets of an American city is the kind of tragedy that calls for true leadership from whoever is in the Oval Office,” the host continued. “Unfortunately, the current occupant is this guy, and even after a few hours to think about it, the best he could do was squeeze in this response before a bill signing.”

Oliver went on to show footage of Trump’s response to the neo-Nazi gathering and subsequent tragedy, where he condemned violence “on many sides” and failed to call out white supremacists.

“Wait – on many sides? This was a white nationalist rally. You have to call that out by name,” Oliver responded. “There honestly aren’t many instances in modern American politics where you can honestly think: ‘That guy really should have mentioned the Nazis,’ but this is emphatically one of them. It’s like a reverse Godwin’s law: if you fail to mention Nazism, you lose the argument.

“And having made a wild false equivalence between Nazis and people who oppose Nazis, Trump moved onto his favorite subject: himself,” Oliver continued, referencing Trump’s statement that the violence has “been going on a long time” and had nothing to do with him.

Oliver went on: “It seems Trump’s first response to anything bad happening is always to immediately absolve himself of any personal responsibility. He’s the kind of guy who starts eulogies at funerals saying: ‘Great guy, I didn’t kill him.’”

The host then explained the response of white nationalists – specifically the former KKK leader David Duke – to the president’s statement. In an interview on Saturday, Duke promised to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” and added: “That’s why we voted for him.”

“I’ve got to say, David Duke and the Nazis really seem to like Donald Trump, which is weird because Nazis are a lot like cats,” Oliver quipped. “If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them. And that kind of connection is something that anyone in their right mind would want to immediately disavow.”

Oliver also showed clips of the numerous attempts made by reporters, after Trump’s initial statement, to ask the president if he disavowed white nationalists gathering in his name. Trump walked out of the room without responding.

“A non-answer in a moment like this is an answer,” Oliver said. “If you had asked me, ‘Have you ever been aroused by the fairies in Zelda: The Ocarina of Time?’ and I responded by slowly and silently walking away from you, you’d know exactly what I was saying.

“Don’t take that from me. White nationalists seemed pretty clear about the message Trump had sent to them with his response,” Oliver continued, reading a statement in which they said: “Trump’s comments were good. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn he just walked out of the room. God bless him.”

“Maybe Trump will eventually take a second swing at personally condemning the white nationalists. But even if he does, it’ll be too late,” the host said. “Because his first response is who he is.”

He continued: “It simply doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis. It is almost impossible to screw it up, but that’s exactly what happened. So there is clearly no point waiting for leadership from our president at 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 that cannot even be bothered to fucking condemn them.”


Jake Nevins

The GuardianTramp

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