“It has been a genuinely extraordinary week for the White House,” said John Oliver at the top of Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight.
There’s been so much chaos this past week that the HBO host said they didn’t have time to even address the $750 Trump paid in income tax for two years (as revealed by The New York Times), Melania Trump “essentially saying ‘fuck Christmas’” (recordings dropped by former Melania aide Stephanie Winston Wolkoff), and Trump refusing to condemn the Proud Boys during the first presidential debate, telling the far-right anti-masturbation hate group to “stand back, and stand by.”
All that fell by the wayside after President Trump and first lady Melania Trump both came down with the novel coronavirus—this after the president spent virtually the entire pandemic downplaying the extent of the virus, even though it’s claimed nearly 210,000 American lives.
“It was news that felt both shocking and utterly inevitable,” said Oliver, given that just three days earlier Trump had stood on the debate stage and, when asked whether he’d played down the efficacy of masks, mocked former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing them regularly, saying, “I don’t wear masks like [Biden]… he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
“What are you doing?! Biden wears a mask in situations where it’s dangerous not to,” said Oliver. “Look, obviously, the president having the coronavirus is a very big deal, and we’re recording this on Saturday, so who knows what’s happened over the last 24 hours. What I do know is that so far, the White House has handled this situation terribly. First, the news only came out after reporters discovered that one of Trump’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, who traveled with him to the debate, had tested positive, prompting the obvious question of when the president had been exposed, and what he’d done about it.”
Then, the late-night comic broke down how, given that Hicks tested positive early Thursday, Trump still proceeded to travel across state lines in order to attend a closed-door, high-priced fundraiser in Bedminster, New Jersey. And, since Oliver recorded Saturday, he wasn’t aware that Trump’s personal physician let slip how Trump received a positive test sometime Wednesday—which means Trump potentially attended a number of other events after he knew he had COVID-19, including a rally for 3,000 people at Duluth International Airport in Minnesota, where he again mocked Biden for wearing a mask.
“So many of the decisions that Trump and those around him made this week look absolutely appalling in hindsight, from his family refusing to wear masks at Tuesday’s debate, to failing to notify anyone on the Biden team that they may have been exposed, to the fact that the fundraiser he attended just before testing positive was a fucking buffet,” explained Oliver, adding, “But maybe the event that looks the worst took place last weekend.”
Oliver was referring to the Rose Garden ceremony announcing Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s pick to replace the late liberal trailblazing icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Barrett is anti-reproductive choice, anti-LGBT rights, and opposed to the Affordable Care Act. People are pointing to the ceremony as a potential superspreader event given how the tightly packed, mask-less, hug-filled soirée resulted in a number of attendees coming down with COVID-19, including Trump, Melania, Hicks, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins. (Attorney General William Barr, who alleges he tested negative, is self-quarantining “for now.”)
Many on the left have pointed out how paradoxical it is that a potential coronavirus superspreader event was held to fête Barrett, who could very well help bring down the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic.
“Much like the slew of utterly horrifying Supreme Court rulings over the next few decades, it seems we may look back on last Saturday’s White House event and say, ‘All of this began there,’” said Oliver. “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 can make you end up killing someone you never meet. And they’re still doing it.”