Coronavirus Chronicles: John Oliver–Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis: Shocking and Utterly Inevitable

John Oliver on Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis: “Shocking and Utterly Inevitable”


John Oliver
Courtesy of HBO


The ‘Last Week Tonight’ host criticized the White House for how “terribly” they have handled the Pandemic

John Oliver started his show on Sunday Last Week Tonight by noting he barely had time to admonish President Donald Trump for failing to condemn white supremacists during Tuesday’s presidential debate or to address the revelations about his taxes because he had to go directly to the fact that Trump and wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was news that was felt shocking and utterly inevitable,” said Oliver, who went on to play clips from the debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden where Trump downplayed the need for masks.

“I put a mask on when I think I need it,” Trump said, adding, “I don’t wear masks like Biden. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away, he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

Oliver likened that mode of thinking to not wearing a beekeeper suit while standing next to a beekeeper tending to a beehive. Oliver showed a manufactured image of Trump covered and bees and imagined him saying: “I don’t wear a beekeeper suit like him. Every time you see him, he’s wearing a beekeeper suit. Not me because I’m smart and strong. This whole bee thing is a hoax anyway.”

Oliver noted that his show was taped Saturday, so he admitted he was likely behind on any news that happened within the past 24 hours. But, he said, “What I do know is that, so far, the White House has handled this terribly.”

He said the news was revealed only after reporters discovered that Trump aide Hope Hicks had tested positive. Hicks had traveled with Trump to the debate, “prompting the obvious question of, when the president learned he’d been exposed, and what he’d done about it?” Oliver said. “And the answers there weren’t great.”

Oliver showed a news clip noting that Hicks was showing symptoms on Thursday morning, but Trump went ahead and traveled to New Jersey for a fundraiser anyway.

Oliver also noted how many actions taken by Trump and his team over the past week look “absolutely appalling” in hindsight in light of the COVID-19 diagnosis — including his family’s decision not to wear masks at the debate and their failure to let Biden’s camp know that they may have been exposed to the fact that the New Jersey fundraiser featured a buffet. (Biden has tested negative.)

The “worst” decision Trump and his team made was to hold an event where he announced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died September 18. Footage from the event shows that attendees were not wearing masks or social distancing.

“It seems we may look back on Saturday’s White House event and say, ‘All of this began there,'” Oliver said. “And there is something utterly infuriating about watching them hugging each other when many in this country haven’t seen their families for months or have died alone in a hospital. And it’s not just that they’re putting themselves at risk, more importantly, it’s that they’re risking infecting others. The thing about a highly contagious virus is your recklessness could end up killing someone you never meet.”

Oliver showed a clip of a Trump supporter not wearing a mask and saying he wasn’t going to give in to “fear-mongering.” But Oliver noted that fear is “not a bad thing” in that it’s what keeps us from walking into traffic or taking other dangerous actions.

“This week more than ever, proves that in the midst of a pandemic, when you act without caution, you cannot expect a virus to ‘stand back and stand by,'” Oliver concluded, using the same words Trump quoted to a neo-fascist group — who promptly embraced the phrase — during Tuesday’s debate.