John Oliver on Trump downplaying coronavirus: 'You can’t just ignore real numbers'

On Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, President Donald Trump’s handling of the novel coronavirus was the focus of Oliver’s ire. For starters, Oliver took issue with the appointment of Vice President Mike Pence to head the coronavirus task force, not only because of Pence’s history managing the HIV crisis in Indiana, but also because Oliver believes that experts, not Pence, should be the ones informing the public. But government health officials have been banned from speaking about the virus without Pence’s approval.

“In a global health emergency, you want to hear from the many trained experts who we’re lucky enough to have working in our nation’s public health agencies,” Oliver said. “You do not want to hear from politicians.”

Even the press conference at which Pence was announced as the head of the task force, according to Oliver, was another debacle.

“Putting aside Pence’s, to put it mildly, extremely mixed record as governor of Indiana on managing public health issues,” Oliver said, “even the announcement that he would be leading the task force was a debacle.”

On top of that, Trump has referred to the media coverage of the coronavirus as the new Democrat hoax and repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the virus, despite experts warning that it could spread rapidly.

“Your experts just said cases will go up, and you said they will go down,” Oliver said. “You can’t just ignore real numbers and make up ones that you like better. This is the problem with a president whose entire life has been a series of low-stakes lies.”

Oliver also took aim at misinformation being spread, like economic advisor Larry Kudlow saying the virus was all but contained when it clearly wasn’t, and the information presented about the virus on Fox News.

“The president’s favorite channel has been a particular offender here,” Oliver said. “Fox anchors and guests have repeatedly amplified false claims, from the idea that the virus was created in a Chinese bioweapons lab, to the baseless internet rumor that it came from Chinese people eating bat soup.”

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on HBO.

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