“Last Week Tonight” Tackles Donald Trump

By Angela Hart

On Sunday, February 28, 2016, John Oliver broke down Donald Trump’s campaign one step at a time, going point by point. The “Last Week Tonight” team identified Trump’s key talking and selling points to voters as Trump’s candid nature, self-made wealth, ability to act tough, and successful business ventures. In actuality, these categories are assets to Trump’s campaign. Oliver dedicated twenty minutes of program to educating viewers about the real facts of Trump’s name and businesses.

Honesty

Oliver started the segment with the thought process that Trump “tells it like it is.” According to Politifact, 76% of his statements are varying degrees of false. Most citizens do not take the extra time to follow up on his claims, taking them as true. This mentality could be self-perpetuating, Donald Trump is thought to be honest, therefore he does not need to be fact checked. Secondly, Trump says everything with such conviction, people may believe his claims outright.

John Oliver heard Trump say he refused to appear as a guest on “Last Week Tonight” during a radio broadcast. In actuality, Trump was never asked to be a part of the program. Oliver was so taken aback by the confidence in Trump’s tone that, “I even checked to make sure, no one even accidentally invited him.” Trump spoke with such conviction, that his lie sounded like a fact. “Last Week Tonight” could easily dismantle this incident because it directly reflected their program. Thus, they found a prime example of Trump making false claims.

Additionally, later in the program, Oliver showed a clip of Trump stating that he never settles lawsuits because that only inspires more lawsuits. Oliver then referenced the fact that Trump settled two lawsuits in regards to buildings. Just because Donald Trump says something that sounds truthful, does not mean that it is.

Self-Funding His Campaign

While it is true that Trump has not accepted corporate money, he is not completely self-funding his campaign. Trump has two “donate” buttons on his websites that are actively accepting contributions from citizens. If Trump did not want to receive external money, then his official campaign website would not include these two links. Similarly, Trump has loaned his campaign twenty to twenty-five million dollars. He did not “give the money” to the campaign, invoking a technical difference. He can still recoup the money before the official nominations are made, thus he has not really spent that amount of money.

Trump is Tough

Many people claim that “Trump is tough” and will take action. John Oliver cited the Spy Magazine incident in which Trump responded to the claims that he was a “short-fingered vulgarian.” In response to this statement, Trump sent multiple letters to the editor pointing out his fingers are normal size. He took the statement personally and continued to pursue the magazine after the article was published. Trump consistently claimed that other candidates are sensitive, while he is not, but this example proves otherwise.

Additionally, Trump appears tough in interviews, constantly threatening to sue multiple people for various reasons such as Rosie O’Donnell. However, in most instances, he never follows through. Trump will claim that he will sue someone, but never takes the next step to file the papers. Oliver compared Trump’s lawsuit threats to “Bazinga,” Sheldon Cooper’s catch phrase on “The Big Bang Theory.” Trump says he will sue, but the claim has no real meaning behind it.

Wealthy

Donald Trump boasts that he is self-made and intelligent. However, when Oliver finds a clip in which Trump says, “I have words, I have the best words,” he does not appear to be as eloquent as he thinks. Donald Trump inherited a great deal of his wealth from his father.

The Trump campaign issued a statement that “Mr. Trump’s net worth is in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS.” This is false. Trump’s net worth is based on his feelings. This fact was revealed in one of the few lawsuits that Trump pursues. (He also lost the case twice.) Trump values his name, believing it to have monetary value. The Donald Trump brand has a three-billion-dollar value according to his campaign. While he does license his name to builders to use, Trump cannot claim that his name has that amount of value adding to his personal wealth; that statement is entirely misleading.

Successful

While Trump has launched successful business, not all of them have yielded profits. He has had numerous failed ventures such as Trump Magazine, steaks (available only at the Sharper Image), Trump University, a travel shuttle, GoTrump.com, and a mortgage company that was founded when the market crashed.

Similarly, Trump licensees his name to other individuals. He is not a part of the actual building or business process, but appears to have invested in the locations. Someone may pass a location that says Trump on the side, but that does not mean Trump was a part of the building’s creation or maintenance.

Get Involved Online

In a clever writing and delivery moment, Oliver tied the program back to Trump’s tweet on Jon Stewart, “If Jon Stewart is so above it all & legit, why did he change his name from Jonathan Leibowitz? He should be proud of his heritage!” only to backtrack and claim he never made that comment. Oliver and his team found a biography that traced Trump’s lineage back far enough to notice that one of his ancestors changed his name from Drumpf to Trump. Thus, “Last Week Tonight” incorporated this into their program. They have launched the #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain hashtag as well as the website http://www.donaldjdrumpf.com/. People can go online and purchase hats and T-shirts with the name Donald Drumpf.

“Last Week Tonight” is also trademarking the name “Drumpf,” taking power away from Donald Trump. If the program owns the name, they can use it however they wish without Trump’s interference.

In regards to utilizing technology, users can go to DonaldJDrumpf.com and download an extension that will change “Trump” to “Drumpf” in the webpage. Everywhere the name Trump appears, Chrome will automatically change it to Drumpf instead.

Why This Matters

“Last Week Tonight” and John Oliver put off addressing the Trump campaign for a long time. It was almost as though they were hoping they would not need to, but, in light of the many victories Trump has received in Iowa and New Hampshire, it was time they incorporated it into their program. While the show introduced the subject matter in a humorous way such as saying, “When he is sworn in as president on January 20, 2017, on that day his opinions are going to matter, and you will remember that date ‘cause it’s the one that time travelers from the future will come back to try and stop the whole thing from happening,” they did not hold back or sugar coat the issues with Trump’s campaign.

Donald Trump has spent years cultivating his brand, creating an easily recognizable name for the American public. Sadly, not many citizens are overly well versed in politics and may not have known the other candidates until the election season. However, due to his numerous reality television shows, Trump is someone people know. If a voter does not recognize any other name listed, they may check his off by default.

Over the course of his campaign, Trump has been pro-life and pro-choice, wanted to invite people into the country as well as remove them, and flip-flop on his perspective on David Duke. At one point, Trump advocated a war crime stating that he would kill terrorists’ families. If any other candidate changed their mind this regularly, they would be held accountable and mocked mercilessly. Being called a flip-flopper in politics is a negative trait. Over the years, many candidates have lost momentum when this term was used. For some reason, though, Donald Trump had eluded the backlash.

It is also important to mention the name Trump invokes a certain rhetoric. People associate “Trump” with wealth. Oliver and his team are trying to demonstrate that without the name recognition, Trump is not a viable candidate. Unlike Trump, Drumpf does not have an instantaneous recognition factor. Oliver wants people to think of Donald Drumpf, “a litigious serial liar with a string of broken business ventures,” not Donald Trump a wealthy successful man. Trump’s name recognition should not win him the GOP nomination. “Last Week Tonight” did an excellent job of analyzing the issues with the Donald Trump campaign.