Warning: Viewer discretion is advised
As the news media picked apart the air strikes against Syria last week, John Oliver delivered a much more sobering message to his viewers on Sunday night.
The host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” poked fun at some well-known journalists — including Brian Williams — for seeming to praise President Trump’s decision to authorize an attack against a Syrian air base in response to the government using chemical weapons.
After showing clips of Williams waxing poetic about the strikes — and, of course, poking a bit of fun at the newsman in the process — Oliver’s tone took a serious turn.
“While it is natural to want to take some kind of action in response, it has to come in context of a larger strategy, or it’s close to worthless,” Oliver said. “Maybe a symbolic air strike was strategically the best move for Trump, but I don’t think he’s thinking strategically, because there is no indication he’s taken the time to answer some fairly basic questions.”
Oliver goes on to list several queries of the president, including what he hoped to accomplish, if the United States is ready to go to war, and if it came to that, how it would affect our country’s relationship with Russia as well as the fight against the Islamic State.
“This is complicated. And I’m not saying there are right answers here,” Oliver said. “I’m saying there needs to be a tangible strategy acknowledging how difficult taking on [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad actually is. Because right now, we have a president who feeds off praise, and he just got a lot of it for bombing someone. And that should make everyone very, very worried.”
Oliver isn’t the only one to criticize Trump over the air strikes. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts released a statement shortly after the attack calling on the president to explain his goals and pleading him not to “not escalate this conflict without clear goals,” while Bill Maher also railed against TV journalists for their treatment of the issue.
Oliver also chided Trump for defending embattled Fox New host Bill O’Reilly, who had reportedly been involved in five settlements with women who said he had harassed them, resulting in payouts totaling about $13 million.
In the wake of the sexual harassment allegations,
companies pulled their ads from O’Reilly’s show, including Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, BMW, GlaxoSmithKline, Mitsubishi, and Allstate, among others, according to The New York Times.
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“Almost nobody is standing by Bill O’Reilly. Nobody, that is, apart from the president of the United States,” Oliver said, playing quotes where Trump recently told a New York Times reporter: “Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way; I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. . . . I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person.”
Oliver seemed almost gleeful at the combination of elements in the whole saga.
“To recap this story for you: Bill O’Reilly needs advertisers, and Donald Trump needs to understand sexual harassment,” Oliver said. “And here is where we come in.”
To loyal fans of the weekly show, you likely know what’s coming next: A commercial designed to enlighten the president.
“We have produced an ad to educate Donald Trump to air during ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ in New York and D.C.,” Oliver said. “We submitted to stations on Friday, but weirdly, we haven’t heard back from them since — which is a little surprising, because we are one of the only advertisers offering to buy time on his show at the moment.”
Enter a commercial starring the “catheter cowboy,” who has been used by “Last Week Tonight” to star in two other ads that were apparently aired during TV news shows earlier this year.
In the latest ad, the “cowboy” chastises Trump — without actually using his name — for supporting a man accused by multiple women of harassment.
“If there’s a power disparity between the two parties, well, thats about as inappropriate as lubricating a catheter with hot sauce, partner,” the man says in the ad as the audience laughed. “And if you’ve got a friend who’s accused of something like that over and over again, I might think twice about defending him.”
In the middle of the ad, the lights faded to a demonic red as the actor put on a downright menacing face and tone.
“On some level, you gotta know you’re blowing this,” he said. “You’re sacrificing a chance to make society a better place on the altar of your tower of ignorance and fragile ego.”
One thing’s for sure: Oliver seems pretty fine with being very blunt in his public messages to the president.