John Oliver: Three ways Trump’s pandemic response failed

John Oliver (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
John Oliver (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) /

John Oliver goes back to the start of the pandemic to reexamine President Donald Trump’s response

John Oliver and President Donald Trump have one thing in common: neither of them wants to talk about COVID-19 anymore. The difference is that one is the leader a country still ravaged by the pandemic and the other is a late night television host.

As he makes his final push for reelection, President Trump has continued to downplay the pandemic and argue that the country is “turning the corner.” However, it seems all those turns have got us right back to where we started as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike around the country.

Still, President Trump says he’s tired of hearing about it on television and suggests that once the election is over, the novel coronavirus will lose its media attention. It’s an absurd thought but one that reflects how President Trump sees the world in terms of publicity and attention.

Last night on Last Week Tonight, Oliver looked back at just how poorly the Trump administration responded, and continues to respond, to the pandemic. It can be easy to forget just how many bizarre statements and erroneous decisions have been made since the pandemic began. Oliver used his time wisely, ensuring that his audience doesn’t forget how things have gone and how it didn’t have to be this way:

John Oliver started discussing COVID-19 on March 1. Since that time, a number of Last Week Tonight episodes have been dedicated to the government’s response as well as how the pandemic has impacted every facet of life.

But looking back at that first segment and the ones that followed and comparing it to now, it’s hard to say that much progress has been made. There is still a certain level of disinformation being spread, the administration is at odds with its own scientists, and large swaths of the population are unwilling to follow prevention protocols.

With that in mind, Oliver looked at three specific ways in which President Trump failed in his response to the pandemic. The Last Week Tonight host explains how things had the potential to be much different.

John Oliver points out the Trump administration’s lack of preparation

Nobody blames the current administration for the pandemic. The outbreak of COVID-19 was felt around the world and wasn’t something that could be predictable. However, preparation can be just as important as a response and Oliver sees a failure on both accounts by President Trump.

The late night host reminds his audience that President George W. Bush called for a pandemic response plan back in 2005 and that President Barack Obama created a pandemic preparedness team. Oliver also reminds his audience that President Trump disbanded President Obama’s team, ended an early warning program, and greatly reduced the Center for Disease Control’s presence in China.

President Trump’s biggest defense of his pandemic response has been his travel ban on China. But it doesn’t take much for Oliver to knock down this argument given the timeline, the delayed response from President Trump, and the fact that most of the outbreak in the U.S. was traced back to Europe.

John Oliver rips President Trump and his administration for poor coordination

The second way in which the White House failed during this pandemic has been in its coordination, says John Oliver. Everyone recalls how the start of the pandemic was marked by a shortage in medical supplies and personal protection equipment.

Once again, Oliver easily dismantles President Trump’s defense of how his administration handled the distribution of PPE. It was an argument that late night hosts like Oliver were able to make in real time and their case has only strengthened with the passing of time.

Oliver calls Trump’s handling of the supply chain “total shambles” despite the president touting himself as an expert businessman. There appeared to be no coordination among government agencies or between the White House and private businesses with the capabilities to produce the necessary resources.

John Oliver calls President Trump’s undermining of public communication his most egregious failure

John Oliver then turns his attention to how President Trump has handled communication during the pandemic. The mistakes and damages made by the president undermining experts is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the crisis for Oliver simply because of how easily avoidable it was.

The Last Week Tonight host points to the Bob Woodward tapes to remind viewers that President Trump was aware of COVID-19’s severity as early as Feb. 7. Despite that knowledge, the president continued to undercut his own administration’s messaging and defied recommendations from medical experts on issues such as wearing a mask and social distancing.

Oliver condemns President Trump once again in this segment, calling him “borderline sociopathic” over his lack of empathy. There have been a number of clips during the past four years that could support Oliver’s argument but he picks the one he considers the most chilling and doesn’t even attempt to add a joke to it.

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver could have run this segment at any time during the past few months. Instead, the late night show made the conscious decision to air it on its final episode before the election, ensuring that its audience fully understands what is at stake and arguing once more for a change in the White House.