Trump & the Coronavirus: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

♪ (“LAST WEEK TONIGHT” THEME PLAYS) ♪ Our first story concerns the coronavirus It’s the Home Alone 2 of viruses as it’s amplified the dangers of air travel, lots of it took place in New York, and right in the middle for no good reason is Donald fucking Trump And I know that the fact that we’re about to talk about this at all would make Trump roll his eys That’s all I hear about now That’s all I hear– Turn on television– COVID, COVID COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID– By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore -(CROWD CHEERS) -(DRUM THUMPS) COVID! COVID! Look, believe me, I would love nothing more than to not talk about COVID, and instead return to subjects we’d normally cover on this show like scented candle fraud or alpaca veterinarian malpractice But unfortunately, I can’t do that when so many Americans are still dying of “COVID! COVID!” every day For many, Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is going to be a significant factor in how they vote And to listen to him, that’s really not a problem He’s labeled his handling of the pandemic as “tremendous, A-plus, and said, ‘Nothing more could have been done,'” which is obviously ridiculous as America has just four percent of the global population and yet about 20 percent of global cases And if you’re thinking, “Oh, come on Who doesn’t know that Trump fucked up this pandemic?” The truth is a lot of voters are more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt REPORTER: How do you feel President Trump has done in handling the pandemic? The best he can for something that’s so somewhat unknown I think he’s probably doing the best that he can right now I mean, there’s so much mixed information out there, and trying to decipher what’s fact and what’s fiction The pandemic? Not his fault (DOG BARKS) And everything that’s gone along with it, not his fault He’s doing the best he can Is he? I mean, I guess that depends, doesn’t it? Do you mean that he’s doing the best that any president can or the best that he can? Because if it’s the second one, you may actually be right We should probably all be grateful that he hasn’t tried bottling his urine and selling it as Trump Immunity Juice Look, all presidents, whoever they are, tend to face a defining crisis, and this was unquestionably Trump’s, but his response has been such a disaster, there are massive fuck-ups you may have already forgotten Remember that time that he suggested we should leave American citizens on a cruise ship ravaged with coronavirus because they’d increase the number of positive cases in the country, and he “liked the numbers being where they are”? That was insane, right? And we covered that on this show In fact, we’ve talked about coronavirus a lot on the show this year, but we still thought that tonight, especially if you or someone you know also thinks that “nothing more could have been done,” it would be worth taking a look at three crucial areas where more could very much have been done, specifically preparation, coordination, and communication And let’s start with preparation because it is worth noting previous presidents have been aware of a threat like this for years George W. Bush demanded the government develop a pandemic response plan all the way back in 2005, and Obama created a pandemic preparedness team and gave a speech in December of 2014 that is eerily prescient There may, and likely will, come a time in which we have both an airborne disease that is deadly and in order for us to deal with that effectively, we have to put in place an infrastructure, not just here at home, but globally, that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, respond to it quickly So, that if and when a new strain of flu like the Spanish flu crops up, five years from now or a decade from now, we’ve made the investment Wow. Those are some shockingly specific predictions What else did he say there? In exactly five years, the Warriors are gonna blow a three-one lead to the Cavs, and Lebron’s gonna have a chase down block that makes your soul jump out of your body Also, Kumail Nanjiani’s gonna get really jacked in a way you don’t know quite how to feel about So, previous presidents were well aware that something like this could happen, and yet in the years before this outbreak, Trump’s administration not only disbanded Obama’s pandemic team, they also cut CDC staff operating within China by more than two-thirds and ended a pandemic early warning program And even once the pandemic had begun, Trump took an appallingly long time to take it seriously He will often complain, and not wrongly, that China took too long to be forthright with us about the virus, but what he doesn’t mention is that once we found out about it, we acted unforgivably slowly The first public reports of what was happening in Wuhan came on December 31st, and yet Alex Azar, Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, couldn’t get a meeting with Trump to talk about it until January 18th And even when he did, Trump apparently interrupted him to ask when flavored vaping products would be back on the market,

which, you know… cool Then, Trump continually implied the virus would simply go away despite learning on February 26th that there was community spread in the US, something we might have known sooner had we also not lost a month due to flaws in our testing process that we were extremely slow to fix And yet, despite all of this, Trump loves to claim that it doesn’t matter what he didn’t do, what really matter is this: This country is very lucky, and I’m very lucky, that I put the ban on China I swiftly implemented a travel ban on China I put in the ban on China I did the China ban We put that ban on When I put a ban on– You have to remember, I put the ban on China (SIMULTANEOUSLY) I banned travel from China We put the ban on China I put a ban on China Ban on China Yeah To listen to Trump tell it, he bans travel from China and job done So, if you’ve lost a loved one to this virus, I’ve got some great news You didn’t! They’re completely fine They’ve just been busy jetsetting all across the world, enjoying live performances with thousands of their closest friends because Trump put the ban on China, and we’re all very lucky he did But a few things about that, because while he did indeed impose some travel restrictions on China, they took effect on February 2nd That is two weeks after the first known case in the US, and also, after 45 other countries had already done so And this “ban” had some major exceptions, including allowing US citizens, residents, and their immediate family members to still come into the country from China, meaning an additional 40,000 people came in from there during the first two months that his “ban” was in place Also, we now know that the virus came to the New York City area not from China, but predominantly via Europe, and yet it took Trump an additional six weeks to place any restrictions on travelers from there And when he finally did that, it came in a chaotic Oval Office speech, where he false made it sound like some Americans wouldn’t be allowed back into the country, which had predictable consequences REPORTER 2: Confusion leading to chaos at US airports under the administration’s European travel ban, lines stretching for hours in New York, Dallas, and Chicago’s O’Hare Yeah, those images don’t get any easier to look at People, panicked by Trump’s announcement, rushed into airports that were not adequately prepared to safely process them, with some passengers reporting there was no hand sanitizer available, and having to share pens to fill out immigration forms And this was before most of us knew we shouldn’t be sharing anything with anyone, which incidentally is still true despite what this Coke bottle tells you Do not share that Coke with Grandma Get her her own and have it delivered by someone in a hazmat suit “Happy 90th, Gammy Try to stay safe.” So, Trump’s travel ban wasn’t a ban, wasn’t early, and didn’t do what he said it did But even if he had rolled it out perfectly, experts will tell you if you decide to use travel restrictions, they have to be part of a comprehensive plan because the best they can do is delay a pandemic, not prevent it. All they’ll do is buy you a little bit of time, which is useless if you don’t then use it wisely, which actually brings us to our second point: coordination And I shouldn’t have to remind you just how badly this administration coordinated crucial supplies like PPE Some medical professionals resorted to making their own using ski googles, snorkel masks, and garbage bags And yet, the White House denies mishandling anything The RNC even featured this video touting the heroism of front line workers, including a clip of Trump talking to a nurse practioner in the Oval Office But if you find the raw footage of that clip, you will see that the conversation they’re having is pretty revealing PPE has been sporadic, but it’s been manageable, and we do what we have to do Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people Oh no, I agree, Mr. President Because I’ve heard the opposite -Yeah -I’ve heard that they are loaded up with– with gowns now, and you know, initially, we had nothing We had empty cupboards We had empty shelves We had nothing because it wasn’t put there by the last administration Okay, first, “sporadic for you, not sporadic for other people” is the literally definition of sporadic. And second, his complaint that he had empty cupboards and shelves is slightly undercut by the fact he’d been president for three years when that conversation took place If you move into a new apartment and three years later, there is still nothing in the cupboards, you don’t get to blame the previous tenant when you’re hungry Go buy some fucking food And it’s not like the administration wasn’t warned here Take Mike Bowen, a top executive at a PPE production company For years, he has been sounding the alarm that most of the US mask supply now comes from abroad, and in January, seeing what was coming our way, he emailed everyone he could think of in the government, offering a clear plan to ramp up production I voted for Donald Trump I thought, you know, if I contact enough people in the administration, somebody, one of these people are gonna look at this and go, “Hey, this is a problem Maybe we oughta call this guy.” And uh, no, I couldn’t get any–

I didn’t get any response there Now, in hindsight, would warning Donald Trump have done anything? You’d get into the Oval Office and go, “Sir, a quarter-million Americans are gonna die.” And he’d say, “Like me die? Or just like random people.” And you go, “Well, Herman Cain.” And he’d say, “Yeah, not really seeing the problem here.” And you’d say, “It might cost you the election.” And he’d say, “But I’d still have my fans and rallies right?” And you’d say, “Yeah, of course, they’ll never abandon you even if you’re actively killing them.” And he’d go, “Okay, not really seeing what the warning’s about here, please leave It’s time for me to watch my shows.” Bowen could not have been more explicit about what needed to happen He told government contacts that placing large, non-cancellable orders would allow him to ramp up production immediately Which was important, because, and I quote But the administration dawdled and Bowen later testified before Congress about what that delay meant I’m getting 500 to 1,000 emails a day I’m getting emails from people, not businesses I am getting emails from moms I’m getting emails from old people, “Please, can you send me a mask?” (VOICE CRACKING) CONGRESSWOMAN: You make a product that can protect people I can’t help these– I can’t help all these people Yeah, that must have been incredibly frustrating Because he offered the administration a clear way to at least mitigate the damage, and they just didn’t move fast enough And decisions like that meant that suddenly, and entirely avoidable, they had to scramble for essential equipment at the same time as almost everyone else on Earth And for all Trump’s supposed expertise as a businessman, his administration’s approach to managing the supply chain was in total shambles At first, Trump encouraged states to, “get it themselves,” putting them against each other and eventually starting a bidding war And later, Jared fucking Kushner was made the White House lead for something called, the supply chain taskforce At one point, it tried to coordinate things directly with Jared pulling in a group of mostly young, untrained volunteers to help vet leads on PPE And here is one of them describing what happened after an initial pep talk about the importance of them tracking down equipment Everyone stood up and started filing into different offices And I remember the only people left were the volunteers We thought we’d be auxiliary support for an existing procurement team that just needed to be expanded as quickly as possible And we would do data entry for contracts And instead, we were the team I think when people imagined the federal government response in the war room, they thought it would be this big, you know, energized group of experts, not 10, 20-year-old volunteers That really doesn’t sound good And I’m not saying that young people are all dumb idiots Mozart composed a minuet at age six This guy created the downfall of society at age 19 You just hope that everyone on the federal task force would have resource-management experience that goes a little beyond, “I played Settlers of Catan at my friend Topher’s house one night, and I actually did pretty well.” And the thing is, one of the best ways not to run short on PPE is to not have mass-community spread And one of the best ways to achieve that is by promoting strong, public-health guidelines Which brings us to our final point here, communication Because Trump has repeatedly undermined public messaging from the very start Despite the fact that, as we now know, he knew extremely early on just how bad things could get DONALD TRUMP: REPORTER 3: That’s what he said privately, but in public, later that month, he was still downplaying the severity and spread of the virus This is a flu, this is like a flu Yeah, Trump just lied Which I know at this point isn’t something that I should have to say It seems like the kind of thing we all already know Like puppies are good and Geppetto definitely built Pinnochio for weird sex stuff That really should not be a surprise, because be honest, if you lived next door to a bachelor who was age somewhere between 70 and 1,000, whose only friend was a fish, whose house was full of not-for-sale handmade clocks going off at different times, and who one day said, “Good news, this little wooden boy is Pinocchio, he is my son.” You’d have exactly two thoughts, “One, he’s fucking that puppet, and two, we have to move The guy whose house sounds like a bomb built himself a son, we have to move No judgment, he fucks that puppet It’s not a crime There’s not a law written down anywhere that says Geppetto is not allowed to fuck the puppet he made while his fish watches I’m not calling the cops here, I’m just saying I’m moving away from Geppetto.” And yet even as it became clear to everyone that this was very much more than the flu, Trump constantly undermined his own administration’s advice On April 3rd, the CDC finally advised that the public wear masks But Trump immediately undercut it, in the very press conference that news was announced The CDC is advising the use of non-medical, cloth face covering as an additional, voluntary public health measure So it’s voluntary, you don’t have to do it

They suggest it for a period of time But, uh, this is voluntary I don’t think I’m gonna be doing it And just like that, wearing a mask was a political issue Trump himself didn’t wear a mask in public until July Which is obviously dangerous You can’t effectively convince people to do something while refusing to do it yourself It is why Soul Cycle instructors are on a bike like everyone else instead of just yelling, “Pedal faster,” while lounging on a bean bag and eating a bucket of hot wings It’s about setting a good example And the thing is, Americans were listening to him Listen to these people just a few weeks later Just like the flu, right? No, it’s not just like the flu It’s far more contagious Well I know, but people where I’m from the flu also… so, to me, that’s just the way I look at it I mean if he’s not wearing a mask, I’m not gonna wear a mask If he’s not worried, I’m not worried -REPORTER 4: The president? -Yes, sir Okay I understand that impulse, I really do But, “If he’s not worried, I’m not worried,” is a weird thing to say when he is the president, surrounded by 24/7 security and a team of doctors, and you are not even surrounded by a shirt It has been genuinely remarkable just how consistently Trump has undercut public-health messaging Over a decade ago, the CDC actually developed guidelines for how leaders should communicate during a crisis And they are: Be first, be right, be credible, express empathy, promote action, and show respect And I’m not saying that the CDC has been perfect during this pandemic, but Trump did the precise opposite of every single one of those And on the empathy one, which should be the hardest to do badly, he’s been borderline sociopathic Because just think about what medical professionals have had to go through this year, especially at the start of this crisis In New York, hospitals had giant, refrigerated trucks that served as makeshift morgues, and there were mass graves dug on Hart Island, even as hospital workers broke down in video testimonials It was utterly brutal here And with that in mind, let’s go back to that oval office meeting Trump had with nurses You know, the one that they used in the RNC video And just watch Trump respond to someone citing concerns about what his colleagues were going through And if I may add one big concern that I have is the post-traumatic trauma that a lot of the nurses and doctors and other members of the health care team will be facing in the future You know, they’re seeing death probably three to four times the average than what they normally would Yes… yes, sir (INDISTINCT CROWD CHATTER) I know after four years it is hard for anything Trump does to shock you anymore, but it is worth making sure that that still does Because that man was in the middle of talking about his peer’s PTSD, and the president cut him off so he could offer everyone pens. Pens! He wasn’t even listening He was just sitting there, waiting for his turn to speak, so he could do his pen thing Is there anything more grim than that? I mean I guess he could have not offered them pens, but would that have been worse? Better? It’s honestly difficult to say It’s even more difficult to write a joke off of “Oh, Trump must be great for you comedians, right?” Yeah, not really, this has been a fucking nightmare And all of this: The lack of preparation, coordination, and communication has had real-world effects And I know that Trump badly wants everyone to believe that nothing more could have been done, but that’s just not true Other countries have done more and suffered less We have four times more people than Germany, but 17 times the COVID cases And we have three-and-a-half times more people than Vietnam, but 7,500 times the COVID cases This wasn’t inevitable And look, I shouldn’t have to take 20 minutes to tell you that Trump mismanaged the pandemic In a lot of ways, the answer to the question: Has Trump done a good job handling this pandemic is, “Well, he got the disease, so, you know…” And the thing is, there are so many more terrible moments we haven’t even had time to cover from using this racist term multiple times to never once releasing a comprehensive federal strategy for fighting COVID, to removal of watchdog, overseeing two trillion dollars in COVID relief To saying he asked his people to slow down testing, which his people then tried to pass off as him kidding, to which he responded, “I don’t kid.” To basically claiming that doctors are inflating coronavirus death counts for money To suggesting sunlight and ingesting disinfectants could help cure the virus To repeatedly undermining the nation’s top infectious-disease expert At one point, he retweeted: FireFauci And got so openly jealous of him that when Fauci was invited to throw the opening pitch at a Nationals’ game, Trump announced he’d be doing the same for the Yankees, surprising them since they’d not actually invited him And look, if Biden is elected, it’s not like he’s gonna magically end this pandemic, but he’ll at least

take it seriously And it’s pretty bleak that that alone sounds good, but it really does ‘Cause at this point, Trump is clearly bored of hearing about COVID And I am sorry about that But you know what’s been completely exhausting for the rest of us? Worrying about it all the time For what it’s worth, multiple members of our staff were sick earlier this year, and it was heart-wrenching being constantly concerned about their health, and that concern hasn’t gone away There are long-term and devastating effects for many who have recovered that we still don’t fully understand People who are sick and dying can’t see their families, and cases now spiking to record highs all over the country This virus has taken so much from us Our peace of mind, our routines, and nearly a quarter of a million Americans And it’s frankly pathetic that in response, the only things Trump has offered people in this country over the past eight months are damaging lies, staggering incompetence, and occasionally, when he’s feeling generous, some shitting fucking pens