♪ ("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.
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)
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.
And everything that's gone along with it,
not his fault. He's doing the best he can.
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.
"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?"
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,
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.
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
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.