John Oliver used the year’s final episode of Last Week Tonight to recap Donald Trump’s shocking win in last week’s presidential election. “It’s true. That happened,” Oliver said, adding, “America proved no grandpa is too racist to become the leader of the free world.”
The host acknowledged he would accept Trump’s Electoral College win — the GOP nominee scored less total votes than opponent Hillary Clinton, who lost — but did have two questions.
“Many people are happy to see him in office. Some are voters who think he’ll bring jobs back and shake up Washington. Others are happy simply because he isn’t Hillary Clinton. And others, of course, are Vladimir Putin and Scott Baio,” Oliver said. “But for the rest of us, we are faced with the same questions as a guy who woke up the day after a Vegas bachelor party, deep in the desert, naked, tied to a cactus and a dead clown. Namely, how the f— did we get here, and what the f— do we do now? Donald Trump will be president, and respecting democracy means accepting that. Although there is one sentiment that I would argue takes that a little too far.”
Oliver then played a variety of cable news pundits saying it was time to “give Donald Trump a chance” now that he has been elected. “In the broadest sense I get that impulse. Hope for the best in the face of very long odds,” Oliver said. But, he added, “Optimism is nice, if you can swing it. But you’ve got to be careful, because it can feed into the normalization of Donald Trump. Because he is not normal. He is abnormal. He’s a human, ‘what is wrong with this picture?’ He sticks out like a sore thumb, and frankly he even looks like a sore thumb. So giving him a chance in the sense of not speaking out immediately against the policies he’s proposed is dangerous. Because some of them are alarming.”
Trump’s rhetoric — including his controversial stances on immigration, the military, and more — is well documented, and Oliver joked that it sounded like “reading the to-do list on Satan’s refrigerator. Which of course Satan no longer needs now that hell has frozen over.”
“Either we just elected a president who didn’t mean a single thing he said, or we elected one who did. And it’s impossible to know which one,” Oliver added, citing Trump’s recent flip-flop on repealing Obamacare. On his website, the president-elect has as one of his platforms that a “full repeal” of Obamacare will happen on “day one” of his administration. But Trump has said in recent interviews that there are portions of Barack Obama’s signature health care plan he would consider leaving alone.
“Get ready for a barely changed version of Obamacare called Trumpcare, which sounds like a health care plan where doctors feel your breasts for lumps, whether you ask them to or not,” Oliver joked. “But wait, don’t get complacent that he’s going to keep those aspects of Obamacare. He might change his mind on that again. Trump is like a Magic 8 Ball: every time you shake him, he gives you a different answer. And sometimes the answer is just ‘big league,’ or ‘that’s some body on my daughter, right?'”
From there, Oliver tried to answer one of his original questions: “How the f— did we get here?”
“Well clearly there are many possible answers to that question, including misleading forecasts that bred complacency, a flawed candidate who failed to appeal to white, rural, and working class voters, and — and this is worth repeating — deep racism and/or indifference to it. For those, including us, who were shocked by Tuesday, we’re going to be examining all of this for years,” he said. “But 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. Specifically how a system that is supposed to catch a serial liar failed.”
Oliver explained how despite some strong work from the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN in covering Trump’s campaign, most Americans consume their news inside an echo chamber — one that isn’t afraid to promote false stories. Oliver cited a recent BuzzFeed News story which found 38 percent of posts on three major right-wing Facebook pages included some form of fiction or misinterpretation, while 19 percent on liberal pages were also guilty of trafficking in fabrication.
“Weird conspiracy bullsh– has always been bubbling under the surface,” Oliver said. “But Trump was the first major candidate to harness and fully legitimize it. And it’s obvious in hindsight: He came along and told millions of people every crazy email you’ve ever forwarded was true. And that, at least in part, is why he will be our next president.”
As for Oliver’s other query: “What the f— do we do now?” The host had some suggestions. “We need to stay here and fight,” he said. “For the last eight years, we’ve had a president we could assume would generally stand up for the rights of all Americans. But that is going to change now. So we’re going to have to actively stand up for one another. And it can’t just be sounding off on the internet or sharing think pieces or videos like this one that echo around your bubble. I’m talking about actual sacrifice to support people who are now under threat.”
Oliver told his viewers donate to a variety of organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the Trevor Project, and ProPublica — but noted that he felt financial support wasn’t going to win the day.
“Things will not be okay. And yes the sun will rise each day, but the continuing rotation of the Earth should not be your baseline expectation of American society,” Oliver said. “And I just need to ask you one more thing: It is going to be too easy for things to start feeling normal, especially if you are not someone who is directly impacted by his actions. So keep reminding yourself: This is not normal. Write it on a Post-It note, and stick it on your refrigerator. Hire a skywriter once a month. Tattoo it on your ass. Because a Klan-backed, misogynist internet troll is going to be delivering the next State of the Union address. And that is not normal, it is f—ed up.”
Season 4 of Last Week Tonight will air in 2017. Watch the full episode above.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that Oliver suggested people also donate to the ACLU.