Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Oliver gives Trump’s coronavirus testing a failing grade

John Oliver
John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Last Week Tonight returned on Sunday after a week off in which John Oliver and his staff shuffled ruefully through their no-doubt insightfully acid takes on the world’s multifarious ills before saying, “Fuck it—we might as well be called Last Week Tonight In COVID-19 for the rest of the season.” In his sixth straight episode broadcasting uncomfortable—bordering on terrifying—truths from within his echoing, audience-less HBO void, Oliver narrowed the coronavirus focus down to testing. That being the one sure-fire, most effective way to combat the still-multiplying pandemic that the Trump administration has predictably, reliably, and rage-inducingly whiffed on the hardest. (It’s admittedly a close race, though.)

Oliver has a way of staring the camera down with an exasperated, “Yeah!,” upon coming back from a clip illustrating basic common sense that Donald Trump and his pasty militia of sycophants continue to ignore. It’s the quintessential sound of sanity faced with jabbering, self-excusing, people-murdering incompetence, and sometimes it’s all Oliver can muster. (Continued lusting over “meaty oak tree” Adam Driver notwithstanding.) Still, the man’s a professional, and this week’s focus was on the two types of coronavirus testing—diagnostic and antibody—and how the U.S. government has proven itself the world’s slowest and whiniest participant in the “for the love of god, stop literally murdering people with your incompetence” steeplechase.

With the barely contained patience of someone stuck teaching the world’s least accountable child, Oliver laid out the Trump administration’s failures, lies, and face-punchable excuses. Experts say we need at least 5 million tests a day to even think about being able to resume anything like normal life. We’re currently testing about 200 thousand per day, with “translucent sociopath” and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner with “his resting ‘do you know who my father is?’ face” pronouncing 65,000 dead and rising, “a great success story.” Okay. He noted how the FDA, CDC, and other Trump-hobbled agencies tripped themselves with their own red tape clogging the testing pipeline for an entire month during a violently contagious pandemic when delaying even a single day meant “thousands and thousands of preventable deaths.” Okay. He played clips of desperate state governors pleading for the supplies their citizens needed and were promised while Trump blithely assured the press that the specifically manufactured, skull-scraping testing swabs are just like Q-tips, and governors should be able to find some on their own. Okay. Oliver checked in on how badly the FDA has bungled the too-late arrival of antibody testing (which theoretically determines if you’ve had the virus and recovered), and how there’s now a flood of kits on the market that are untested and calamitously inaccurate. O-fucking-kay.

“Failed to prepare and slow to catch up” is exactly the way a backward-ass, vainglorious, excuse-mongering third world dictatorship would respond to this pernicious yet preventable disease, so guess which decisions the United States under Donald Trump has consistently made. “Making mistakes and then taking valuable time in fixing them” is another way to say it, alongside increasingly sidelining those actual, responsible medical and governmental professionals whose expertise inconveniently wounds the bloated, pin-prick ego of a sweaty, whimpering reality show host/president. As Oliver put it, as recently as Tuesday Trump repeated the “lie he’s instantly going to get caught on” that the country is just about there on the minimum 5 million test a day threshold set by those actual experts. No doubt trusting that even his own Assistant Secretary of Health’s rebuttal that neither “on this or any other planet” will that hold true will be swept under the bulging rug covering his unending avalanche of self-serving, life-endangering bullshit. Sigh—okay. See you next week.


Should you suspect you or a loved one needs a COVID-19 test, here’s one site tracking state-by-state availability, although the current uncoordinated patchwork of policies suggests verifying all information beforehand. Good luck.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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