Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 1 - POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola - full transcript

John talks about the Indian election, Pom Wonderful, and talks with the former NSA director General Keith Alexander.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
Welcome to "Last Week Tonight." I am John Oliver.

And welcome, welcome, welcome to whatever this is.

Let's get started straight away. First, quick recap of the week:

It turned out to be a rough week

for unrepentant racists and recording devices.

The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling,

was caught on audiotape telling his girlfriend

not to pose for pictures with black people

and not to then bring them
to basketball games.

MAN: Sterling was upset after
she posted an Instagram photo

of her with Magic Johnson.

Wow. That is
genuinely shocking.

An 80-year-old man
knows about Instagram?

But look, I'm sure he'll
win his way back into

everyone's good graces.

Who can stay mad
at that racist face?

He's like a walking
"before" photo.

And impressively, impressively,
this horrific human

actually managed
to somehow one-up

the previous most racist
person of the week,

Cliven Bundy, who finished
his weeklong seminar

on the benefits of slavery by
provoking the single greatest

introduction to an interview
in the history of

the English language.

Mr. Bundy,
I see in your arms

that you are
holding a dead calf.

"Oh, this old thing?

I hadn't even noticed that I was carrying it."

And just this morning,

Catholics ended the week
with a huge celebration.

WOMAN: Just a short time ago,
Pope Francis presided

over a double papal canonization
ceremony that elevated

Popes John Paul II
and John XXIII into sainthood.

Two at once!

That's the papal-sainthood
equivalent of

a KFC Double Down.

This morning was actually

historic for
a number of reasons:

It's an event that
may well never happen again.

In effect, 4 popes in the same
place at the same time.

Pope Francis will declare
that two of his predecessors

are here in spirit as saints

while the man he succeeded,
Benedict XVI, looks on.

You know who I actually
feel bad for there?

Pope Benedict.
Because it cannot be easy

to be the fourth-most-popular
pope in the room,

especially when two of
the other popes are dead.

And finally, there was big Obamacare news this week:

On the positive side, signups
have surpassed 8 million people.

But unfortunately, on Thursday,
it turned out that

one state in particular
is lagging behind.

Oregon has officially shut down
its online health care exchange

after weeks of trying to fix its
bulky, glitchy system.

to sign up for
medical insurance.

WOMAN: All told, taxpayers
have coughed up

a whopping $248 million

for a web site that
still doesn't work.

Wait, wait, wait. OK.

So, let's break
all of that down:

Oregon spent a quarter
of a billion dollars.

And its web site--designed to
sign people up in one sitting--

did that for exactly nobody.

That has got to be a bitter pill to swallow
for the people of Oregon,

or it would be, if they could
get the pill, which they can't,

because their shitty
web site is broken.

Now, to be fair...

to be fair,

to be fair to Oregon,
not all of that money

was spent on
the web site itself.

3 million of it was spent on

violently adorable adverts
like this:

WOMAN: Long live
our Oregon spirit

Long live the Oregon way

To care for each one,
every daughter and son

Live long, Oregon


Look, we get it, Oregon.
You people live in a cartoon!

Your mountains are breathtaking,
your coffee is fair trade,

and everywhere you go you hear
the sound of fucking ukeleles.

You've made your point,
but here's the thing.

This is all very charming until
you waste tens of millions

of dollars of taxpayer money
on a web site that doesn't work.

Luckily, we here
have prepared something

to convey that message
to you in a way

that I think you'll
be able to understand.

Like artists in Portland,
your site doesn't work

That 404 Error
is not just a quirk

You blew all our money
on these stupid sets

So when you break your leg,
try the neighborhood vet

You stupid Oregon idiots

You human
Pinterest boards

Your passion for cuteness
might kill your whole state

So long, Oregon

That's right. That's right.
That's right.

We flew in
Lisa Loeb to tell you

to go fuck yourselves, Oregon.

But, look, let's move on

and let's talk about
election news.

And before you say it,
no, I do not mean this:

How is the 2016 field
shaping up?

The prospects
of Hillary Clinton...

Vice President Joe Biden...

Chris Christie
leading the way...

Maybe it can actually
be Jeb Bush.

Rand Paul is one of
the leading frontrunners.

Ted Cruz,
even Donald Trump.

MAN: Could he be testing the
presidential waters again?

I've got an even more important
question: Who gives a shit?

Because here's the frustrating thing: Cable
news does not need to be

focusing on an election
that's happening in 926 days

when there's an important one
happening right now

that they're all
completely ignoring.

The world's biggest election
is underway in India.

It's the biggest
election on the planet.

814 million voters
eligible to vote.

Yes, the biggest
election in human history

is taking place
in India right now.

Nearly 1/5 of the world's working-age population
lives there.

It has a direct economic
impact on America.

And yet, this is the most substantive conversation
about it we could find:

We're going to get questions
from some writers to the program

saying what are you talking
about India for?

What does that have to do
with the United States?

850 million voters.
WOMAN: Right.

Why should that concern us? They're not even
in our hemisphere.

Yeah! Yeah! They're not
even in our hemisphere,

And if they're not, they
basically don't exist.

See? Look! They're not
even on my globe!

They're not on my globe!

Show me where they are!
You can't, can you, boy?

But, look, at least
the guy from Six Flags

is actually talking
about this story.

Because the Indian election
is not even that complicated.

Just like in American elections,
all it really comes down to

is two people.

There are two key people
fighting this out.

Rahul Gandhi
from the Congress Party

and Narendra Modi from the BJP.

OK, great. So, let's deal
with Gandhi first.

And I realize it's not the first time that
sentence has been said ,

in a British accent.

Put that aside, put that aside,
put that aside. 1

There's no time, no time.

Rahul Gandhi, however, is--
wow, that guy is handsome.

Look at that vest.
He's like an Indian Han Solo.

This guy is the total
political package.

He's got good looks, he's from a family with 3
former prime ministers.

He's got that vest.

With those 3 credentials, you'd
think he'd have this thing

completely locked up by now.

But in the kind of twist
worthy of

at least a modicum of
cable news coverage,

he's actually widely expected to lose the
election to this guy.

WOMAN: Narendra Modi is a leader of India's
Hindu Nationalist Party.

MAN: There's a growing
wave of support behind

Narendra Modi,
a hard man politician

who's worked his way up
from the bottom.

As a boy, he sold tea
on a railway station.

Modi sold tea
in a railway station,

and now he's the most popular
man in the country!

Don't pretend you're not
interested in this, America.

The last time you heard
a rags-to-riches story

about a tea-selling Indian kid,
you threw a fucking Oscar at it.

And you loved that more than

"The Curious Case
of Benjamin Button"!

C'mon, he starts as an old man
and he ends as a dead baby!

It's a heartwarming tale!

Watch it again!
Watch it again!

That's not the point.

The point is, Modi has
managed to inspire people

with his populist platform,

including a pledge to put
toilets in every home.

Wow, that's a bold move,
coming out as pro-toilet!

Finally, someone's
taking on the powerful


This is both funny
and also incredibly important

as a public-health issue.

And if that wasn't enough,
in a move that I cannot believe

no American politician
has tried:

Modi has been making campaign
appearances via hologram.

That's right: Modi has gone
Tupac at Coachella!

And that's--that is
how you convince...

that is how you convince
undecided voters.

"So, who are you
gonna vote for?"

"Modi!" "Why?"

"'Cause he appeared
to me as a hologram

and told me he'd
give me a toilet."

That's not just
how you get elected,

that's how religions
get started.

And I can feel the news saying,
"Well, that's all well and good.

"But where's
the scandal here?

Where's the
je ne sais genocide?"

Well, don't worry.
Don't worry,

because Modi has
got you covered.

Many believed that he played
a role in the riots between

Hindus and Muslims which killed
thousands back in 2002.

MAN: An explosion of
communal violence

in his home state on Mr. Modi's
watch still casts a shadow.

At least 1,000 people died,
most of them Muslim."

Is that enough
of a scandal for you?

'Cause bear in mind how much
time we spent in this country

covering a story about
a bridge-based traffic jam

in which the worst that happened
to any Muslims involved was that

they were slightly delayed.

We should care
about this story!

If polls are to be believed, we
may be throwing state dinners

for this guy
in the near future.

And it's not just that he arguably failed
to stop a massacre,

it's that if he's sorry at all,
it's for an unexpected reason.

WOMAN: I asked him if he had any regrets
about what had happened

in his state
in that period.

He told me his
greatest regret was that

he didn't manage
the media very well.

Sure. I could've handled
the media better.

I could've somehow spun
the massacre as a positive.

And in hindsight I will say, it
may not have been the best time

to do "Between
Two Ferns," but...

I'm a fan of Zach.
I'm a fan of Zach.

And I thought that's
what people did now.

If this story isn't
worth covering,

then nothing is worth covering.

And I don't mean to suggest
that the American news media

have completely ignored
India this week.

It's just that this is the story that they went with.

WOMAN: Panic in
the streets of India.

A frightened leopard bursting
from the roof of a house.

MAN: A wild scene in India,
when this leopard got loose.

MAN: A leopard springs through
a roof of a home in India.

WOMAN: Not where you'd imagine
a leopard popping out of

a rooftop like that.
It's crazy.

It's not crazy, though!

Leopards are
indigenous to India.

If it was a leopard in Times
Square on New Year's Eve,

yes, that would be crazy,
that would be insane.

You get him, leopard,
you get him.

And it's also worth noting here
that even as our cable news

has been ignoring India,

India has not been
ignoring our cable news.

MAN: You see a lot of
what may be described

as Foxification of
television news.

The model seems to be Fox News
in the United States,

which is famous internationally
for shouting matches.

Congratulations, Fox.

You're famous internationally
for shouting.

By the way, they don't
even get Fox in India.

They just hear them
from across the ocean.

But--no, no, no.
The point is,

slow down, India.
Let's take a progress report.

How exactly close to American
media have you come?

Do you have a ludicrous
number of people

shouting at each other?

MAN: Mr. Carter wants
to say something, yeah.

One second. Mr. Carter.
Let's go back to the beginning.

MAN: Can I talk?
Yes, I want to talk.

OK. That's one,
that's one.

But do you have elaborate,
senseless election graphics?

Incidentally, that is
from CNN India.

And a little fact-check: India has just over
800 million voters.

So their own graphic is wrong by
the entire population of Brazil.

You truly are a member
of the CNN family.

But let's get back to it.

Do you have
self-righteous anchors

repeating themselves
over and over again?

And how dare you bring
all this--

How dare you say
I take money.

How dare you say
I take money.

How dare you say
I take money.

You provoke--

How dare you say
I take money.

How dare you say
I take money.

No, I--I--

How dare you say
I take money.

How dare you say
I take money.

You dare--

How dare you say
I take money.

...back to you.

How dare you say
I take money.

How dare you--

You say this to me. How can you say
I take money?

...speaking to people--

How dare you say
I take money, Miss.

Holy shit, they've
stolen our formula!

But you've forgotten
one crucial detail here, India.

'Cause if you really want to
Americanize your media,

there's one last thing
you have to do:

and that is stop covering
the Indian election.

And now this.

ANNOUNCER: And now...

Listen, Russia is a gas station masquerading
as a country.

Russia is a gas station
masquerading as a country.

It's a gas station
masquerading as a country.

Russia is now a gas station
masquerading as a country.

Russia is a gas station
masquerading as a country.

You know, I've said--I thought
it was a pretty good line.

Russia is a gas station
masquerading as a country.

Good joke.
Good joke.

Now, let's move on. If you looked at the Supreme Court
docket this week,

you may have seen
an unusual case name:

Pom Wonderful versus Coca-Cola.

And if you're wondering
why two beverages

are fighting each other in
the highest court in the land,

it's because Pom Wonderful believes that one
of Coke's products

is misleading the public.

It says "pomegranate blueberry"
in big letters on the label,

but this juice is actually
99% apple and grape.

To see how much pomegranate juice is actually
in this Minute Maid,

you need something as small
as an eye dropper.

That's it.

Seriously? Because if that's the standard, you
should really call it

"Minute Maid Pomegranate
and Rat Urine Blend,"

because let's face it, there's a
little rat urine in everything.

Now, you might think that
Pom Wonderful is the hero here,

standing up for truth
in pomegranary.

But be careful, because
in Coke's defense,

they only misled us about
what was in their juice.

For years, Pom Wonderful
has misled us about

what's in pomegranates.

MAN: The ads make pomegranate juice sound
almost miraculous.

WOMAN: "Pom Wonderful
Pomegranate Juice,"

claims to have
healing superpowers,

helping you to cheat death.

If you know a man that you
care about or you are a man,

make him drink 8 ounces of
pomegranate juice a day,

'cause what it does for
prostate cancer is amazing.

Or really, just give him
a pomegranate enema instead.

Just shove a bottle of
pomegranate juice up his ass

and squeeze it.

You'll be amazed
at the results.

The U.S. Government
will let you say

just about anything
about your products,

but promising immortality
was too much even for them.

MAN: The Federal Trade Commission says the
company's health claims

are, quote, "false
and unsubstantiated"

and based on dubious research.

Which means what this case is actually about
is Pom Wonderful saying,

"Hey! We didn't spend years
misleading people

"about the health benefits
of our snake oil

"for you to come in and lie
about how much snake oil

you have in your product."

And one of Coke's actual
arguments this week,

in the Supreme Court,
is that they're allowed to

give their product...

An argument that has the characterizing
flavor of bullshit. 2

But incredibly, incredibly, Coke may actually have legal
precedent on its side.

You see, back in 1984,

the folks that make candy that
you can mix with milk, decided--

that despite explicit
recommendations not to--

they put a label on
boxes of All-Bran

implying that it could
ward off cancer,

saying that their right
to do this is...

Which made other companies say,
"We can say what we want? OK!

Let's do exactly that, then."

Which is why Hellmann's
once felt they could put

a "smart choice" label
on their mayonnaise,

and Cocoa Krispies boasted that they can increase
your children's immunity,

which is true only in the sense
that it immunizes them

from "not having diabetes."

And it's extremely rare
for companies to be

called to account
for any of this.

For instance, a few years ago,
Kellogg's was forced

to stop airing this ad:

NARRATOR: A clinical study
showed kids who had

a filling breakfast of
Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal

improved their attentiveness
by nearly 20%.

OK, two fun facts there: first,
when they say "nearly 20%,"

it's because they are
rounding up from 11.

And secondly, they were
comparing kids

who had eaten cereal with
a control group of kids

who had had
no breakfast at all.

And that is not so much
a case for Mini-Wheats

as it is
the concept of food.

A much fairer slogan would be
"Frosted Mini-Wheats:

they're literally
better than nothing!"

Clearly, clearly...

clearly, we are now at a point
where food companies feel

no obligation
to accurately represent

what is in their products
and what they do for you,

a fact best encapsulated by
this one single commercial:

NARRATOR: When you give your kids Frosted
Strawberry Pop-Tarts 6

baked with real fruit,
they'll rise, and you'll shine.

Fuck you.

And I'll tell you why.

Because there is no significant
amount of fruit in Pop-Tarts.

And within 30 seconds
of eating one,

your children will not
rise and shine,

they'll run around punching
people in the dick before

collapsing into
a puddle of tears.

Look, if there's an upside
to applying

the First Amendment
to food labeling,

it's that if companies
can do this, then so can you.

You could, for instance,
put stickers

on a bottle of Pom Wonderful
claiming it

contains 4 whole Pomeranians.

Or banners saying that
Frosted Mini-Wheats are...

In fact, you'd be
constitutionally empowered

to go online to this address,

print a selection
of labels out,

and stick them to
existing food packaging.

Now, the worst thing you could
do--no, no, no.

No. The worst thing
you could do is go into a store

and put these
products on the shelves,

because that would be
breaking the law

in the funniest way imaginable.

And if you were to do it,
which you absolutely should not,

do not take a photograph
and send it to our show's

official Twitter account,

because that's something I would
not be interested in seeing.

And--and this is key-- don't blame me if you
get into trouble over this,

because even though I might
be 99.7% responsible,

my .3% innocence is my
characterizing flavor.

And now this.

"Last Week Tonight's"...

This week, the National
Football League.

The NFL has long been
renowned for its concern

with the welfare
of all its employees.

But this week, one group of contractors have
some constructive criticism.

WOMAN: New allegations
this morning of mistreatment

by a group of Buffalo Bills

The Oakland Raiders
and Cincinnati Bengals

are also dealing
with wage disputes.

WOMAN: Some of whom claim they were paid less than
$5.00 an hour.

ANNOUNCER: Apparently $5.00 an
hour is just market rate

for sideline entertainers,
with one exception.

A mascot--that is the person who dresses up in the uniform
of an animal, usually--

gets paid about
$25,000 a year.

Plus, unlike cheerleaders,
mascots get benefits.

Enjoy your doctors' visits, anthropormophic
dolphin humanoid.

But while the NFL may not
pay cheerleaders much in money,

the advice in their
handbook is free,

and there's plenty of it.

From how much to talk
to how much to eat

to which feminine hygiene
products to use.

Oh, and of course, this...

WOMAN: And had to submit
to a "jiggle test"

so their boss could
critique their bodies.

ANNOUNCER: A jiggle test, because the sight of
quivering excess fat

has no place in the NFL.

And in return for all these
workplace indignities,

the NFL asks cheerleaders to do a job where they're
barely heard...

barely seen...

and the only responsibility
in their job title

that of leading cheers

usurped by Jumbotrons.

Their only remaining

serving as human speed bumps
for gargantuan tight ends.

And that is why the NFL is this week's workplace
of the week.

For our final segment

we'd like to look at the NSA.

They've had a turbulent
past 10 months,

but as Director of National
Intelligence James Clapper

said back in January,
the intelligence community

is determined to learn
their lessons.

The major takeaway for us,
certainly for me,

from the past several months
is that we must lean in

the direction of transparency,
wherever and whenever we can.

We're gonna be transparent.

I'll start: I don't
like bananas.

Now you tell me everything
you've ever done in your life.

Except, as we learned
earlier this week,

after leaning in the direction
of transparency,

Clapper didn't so much
"lean away" as

"run furiously in
the opposite direction."

WOMAN: Under new rules by
the administration

and the nation's intel chief,
James Clapper,

intelligence employees are banned from

speaking to journalists about
any intelligence-related matter.

Well, that'll restore
the American people's trust.

As we all know, the first step
in rebuilding any relationship

is cutting off any and all

Lucky for us,
the ex-head of the NSA,

General Keith Alexander,
retired in March,

which means that those rules
no longer apply to him,

leaving him free and generous
enough to speak with us.

Take a look.

General Keith Alexander
is a decorated military veteran

who ran the NSA
for the last 8 1/2 years.

During that time,
he faced questioning

from the highest ranking
officials in the land,

but now he would face
the opposite of that.

So, first, General, thank you so much
for sitting down with me.

Do you think that the NSA is suffering
from a perception problem

with the American people
at the moment,

bearing in mind that
the answer to that is yes.

Uh, absolutely.

You know, the first
assumption is that

you're collecting
on the American people.

And therein
lies the problem,

because the reality is the target is not
the American people.

No. The target is not
the American people,

but it seems that too often
you miss the target

and you hit the American
person standing next to a guy

"Whoa! Whoa! Him?"

But you see, we're not just out there gathering
U.S. communications,

listening to their
phone calls,

or collecting
their e-mails,

but that's the first thing
that people jump to.

But you are out there
doing that.

You're just saying you're not, then,
reading them.

You are gathering
that data.

No, no. So, in terms of going after U.S.

or sitting here in the United States
talking to--

A and B talking
in the United States--

we aren't
collecting that.

We don't collect that.

We do collect
the metadata--

a to-from number, date, time, group,
and duration of a call.

That's all
that's in there.

But that's not nothing.

That's significant

you wouldn't want it.

Is this the argument,
then, that to get

the needle,
you need the haystack?

Well, that's part
of the argument.

Well, the people's
concerns, I think,

are that you're not
just taking the haystack,

you're taking
the whole farm

and the county
and the state,

and you've now got some photos of
the farmer's wife

in the shower as well.

So NSA is not allowed to go do that
on its own.

It has oversight.

And so what the courts,

and the administration
do is say,

"If you're gonna do
this, it has to comport

with the Constitution."

an unblemished record

of comporting with
the Constitution

and keeping tight control
over its information,

with the exception of
the thousands of times that,

according to the NSA's
own audits,

they accidentally accessed
Americans' information.

And then, of course,
there was this:

MAN ON TV: The NSA admits
some employees

have spied on their girlfriends,
boyfriends, husbands, and wives.

OLIVER: All of which prompted
a simple question.

Why should the American
people trust the NSA?

from my perspective,

because of what they do to protect this country
every day.

These are good people trying to do
the right thing.

Right, but much of
your reassurance there

is based on
your own moral code,

the idea of you thinking,

"Well, I wouldn't
abuse this power,

so why would anyone else?"

I would. I would--

If I had access to that
kind of information,

I would abuse
the hell out of it.

I'd be looking up information about
everyone that I knew.

I know that.

Everybody who goes
through the training,

they'd say, "John--
John, here's the deal.

"You're gonna get
access to this data,

"but you can't use it
for these things.

You can't use it for this, and you can't
use it for this."

Sure, I definitely
won't do that.

Where's my computer?

Right. And so, as soon as you get
on the computer,

what happens...

you type in...

What's her name?

God, she screwed me
over so bad.

You hit return.


Oh, you bitch!
Oh, my God!

Oh, my God.

If you were caught
doing that,

then you would
either be removed...

Or promoted.

No, because the Department
of Justice

has ruled on several
of those cases.

Right. OK.
So finally,

let's talk about

The NSA's brand
has been damaged.

I think that's fair to say, right?

As we learned
with Blackwater,

you don't have to change the substance of anything
that you do

as long as you
visibly rebrand.


So let's try this.

The Washington Redskins.

It's a slightly less tainted brand
than yours.

Yeah, but probably not a good one
to go with.

Sorry. OK, no good.
How about this?

Mr. Tiggles.

Mr. Tiggles is not
just the mascot,

it's also the name
of the agency,

like Chuck E. Cheese.

Then the journalists
can't say,

"The NSA is storing
huge amounts of data

on foreign countries."

Instead, it'd say,

"Mr. Tiggles is storing
huge amounts of data..."

Isn't it clever?
He's in a boot?

Oh, you've massively overstepped your bounds,
Mr. Tiggles,

but I can't stay mad
at you.

You just want
to keep me safe.

Yeah. And I don't think that's gonna

OK, how about
rebranding yourself

as a great listener?

The only agency in government that
really listens.

That's what I'm saying.
That's what I'm saying.

Because in many ways,
the NSA is the--

the perfect partner.

So, let me introduce you
to the new NSA, Trevor.

I think this is good.

Tell us about
your day,

everything about it.

How's Mohammed
at work?

How is he?
What's he been doing?


So if you had to choose
one of these,

which would it be?

I think that's something that perhaps you could
have people vote on.

OLIVER: So there you have it.

At long last, Americans are
being allowed to vote

on something having to do
with the NSA.

Just pick up your phone
and call any number

and say "A," "B," or "C,"

into the handset.

Don't worry, your vote

will be collected.

If you want to watch an extended version of that
interview online, go here:

My thanks to General Alexander.

Also, great thanks to Lisa Loeb.

Thank you for watching.
Join us again next week.

Good night!