Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 4, Episode 9 - French Elections - full transcript

The presidential election in France could determine the political future of Europe. John Oliver visits an excessively French bistro to deliver an urgent message to voters.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -


Welcome to Last Week Tonight.
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you so much for joining us.
Time for a quick recap of the week.

We begin with President Trump,

two words that give you
a sense of impending doom,

like sewage enema,
or United Airlines.

This week saw a moment when
White House spokesman Sean Spicer

explain our stance on Syria
by pointing to the fact

Assad had used chemical
weapons on his own people.

Not that difficult a thing to explain.
Very difficult to explain this badly.

We didn't use chemical weapons
in World War II.

You had a, you know,
someone as despicable as Hitler

who didn't even sink
to using chemical weapons.

Yes. "Hitler didn't use
chemical weapons."

That's not just wrong, that's $200
question on Jeopardy wrong.

That is Wheel of Fortune
first round tossup wrong.

Because everybody knows:

mass chemical extermination
was kind of Hitler's thing.

That and the mustache.
You take them away,

and all you've got is an ill-tempered
Austrian with resting bitch-face.

And Spicer's comments led to
this incredible follow-up question.

Please, clarify something that seems
to be gaining some traction.

"Hitler didn't even sink to the level
of using chemical weapons."

What did you mean ?

I think when you come to sarin gas,

he was not using the gas on his people
the same way that Assad is doing,

There was clearly...
I understand your point, thank you.

There was not... He brought them into,
to the Holocaust center, I understand.

At no point during that
was he in control of his own mouth,

specifically the moment he decided
to coin the term "Holocaust center",

which sounds like the home arena
for an alt-right hockey team.

But he wasn't done. Spicer put out
a printed statement, reading,

"in no way was I trying to lessen
the horrendous nature of the Holocaust"

which is an amazing way
to start any statement, continuing:

"I was trying to draw a contrast
of the tactic of using airplanes"

"to drop chemical weapons
on innocent people."

But that could imply
the victims of the Holocaust

were not innocent people.

Hence Spicer's hastily-released
second statement,

changing "innocent people"
to "population centers".

Then a third statement,
with an extra line:

"any attack on innocent people
is reprehensible and inexcusable",

and then a final statement,
which read in its entirety:

"I can't stop making statements. I don't
want to make any more statements."

"Can anybody hear me ?
Hitler Hitler Hitler. Sean."

Meanwhile, the president himself
was being interviewed about Syria,

where he described
in surprising detail

the moment he informed
Chinese President Xi Jinping

that the strikes
would be taking place.

I was at the table, we had finished
dinner, we're having dessert...

the most beautiful piece of
chocolate cake that you've ever seen,

and President Xi was enjoying it,

and I was given
the message from the generals

that the ships are locked and loaded,
what do you do ?

And we made a determination
to do it.

Only Donald Trump

could use a conversation about
missile strikes in the Middle East

to advertise the cake at Mar-a-Lago.

Which you might want to think twice
about trying given that it was reported

the club's kitchen was cited
for 13 health code violations

for fish that had not undergone
proper parasite destruction,

and storing ham at 57 degrees.

Nothing says upscale dining like
lukewarm ham with a side of tapeworm.

If you are thinking: "Perhaps
the president brought up the cake"

"because he wanted to be extra-precise
about every single detail",

let's rejoin the interview,
just one minute later.

So what happens is I said, we've
launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq.

- Headed to Syria.
- Yes, heading toward Syria.

I wish she'd kept naming places,
to see if he kept agreeing with her.

- "Headed to Egypt."
- "Yes, headed to Egypt."

- "Headed to Dollywood."
- "Yes, headed to Dollywood."

- "Headed straight for us."
- "Yes, straight for us right now."

The bigger issue with Trump's
sudden bombing of Syria

is it runs directly counter
to everything he'd said,

through tweets like "what I am
saying is stay out of Syria."

That was just a warm-up for a week
full of foreign-policy flip-flops.

President Trump making
a number of stunning reversals

as he faces multiple
foreign policy crises.

After repeatedly calling NATO
obsolete on the campaign trail...

NATO in my opinion is obsolete.

Mr. Trump changing his tone.

I said it was obsolete.
It's no longer obsolete.

It is incredibly annoying
how long it took Donald Trump

to reach a conclusion
that everyone else had already reached.

It's like a Flat Earther
finally admitting the Earth is round.

"Yes, you are right,
but I'm still mad at you"

"that you ever believed that shit
in the first place !"

He also U-turned on calling China
a currency manipulator,

replacing Fed chair Janet Yellen,

and his criticisms
of the Export-Import bank.

And you may be happy
with those reversals.

But if you are a Trump supporter,
you might be rightly pissed off.

This is not
what you thought you bought.

It's like getting tickets
for The Vagina Monologues,

but on the night you went,
it starred Brian Dennehey.

Who's great, but it's not
really what you signed up for.

And sometimes Trump's 180s
seemed to happen in real time.

His long-standing belief

that North Korea could easily
be taken care of by China

apparently changed moments
after he brought it up to Xi Jinping.

Mr. Xi then explained the history
of China and Korea, Mr. Trump said,

after listening for ten minutes,
he said, I realize it's not so easy.

Xi Jinping got him to completely
change his mind after ten minutes !

How did he explain something
that complicated in so short a time ?

I genuinely want to know that !
If this show did a segment on grapes,

we'd need 20 minutes and an
appearance from a marching band.

The president
seems to change his mind

based on any information
that is new to him,

which seems
to be almost any information.

And that is worrying. We have a leader
operating on a learner's permit.

And we were reminded this week of
what a president has at his disposal.

We learned a short time ago
for the first time in combat

the U.S. military dropped a 21 000
pound bomb in eastern Afghanistan.

Inside the Air Force,
inside the military,

it quite seriously is referred to
as the Mother Of All Bombs.

There is a lot to unpack there,

but let's take a minute
and appreciate the fact

that we've reached a point
where mothers can be bombs, too.

Hashtag Mom-Bombs,
Hashtag Feminism.

But minutes
after that historic bomb dropped,

Trump took a victory lap
that was tripped up slightly

by one very simple question.

We are so proud of our military.
And it was another successful event.

- Did you authorize it, sir ?
- Everybody knows what happened.

So, and what I do
is I authorize my military.

We have the greatest military
and they've done a job, as usual.

So, we have given them
total authorization.

What the fuck was that ?
That was a yes or no question,

to which you vomited 38 words,
none of which were "yes" or "no",

although none of them
were "Holocaust center" either,

so I guess we should be
at least partially relieved.

Later reports suggest that the US
commander who ordered the bomb drop

"didn't need and didn't request
President Trump's approval."

So Trump has placed
a significant amount of authority

in the hands of his commanders.

And you may think
that's good or bad.

But I would not expect Trump
to curb that power anytime soon.

As we talked about last week,
this is a man who responds to praise.

And yet again,
he is being praised for this.

Watch Trump's favorite
morning show, "Fox & Friends",

respond to the bombing !

That video is black and white.
But that is what freedom looks like.

One of my favorite things
in 16 years I've been at FOX News

is watching bombs
drop on bad guys.

A coincidence. One of my favorite
things in four seasons on this show

is getting to look into the camera
and say, "fuck you, Geraldo."

"I hope your mustache
gets caught in a box fan."

That felt amazing !
That felt absolutely amazing !

But Geraldo wasn't done,

he had strategic advice for the man
who was almost certainly watching.

It certainly sends a message.

The message has to be
we're coming for you.

I had a bully in high school
a guy named Richie.

You never knew
what Richie was gonna to do.

He'd have a temper,
sometimes he would want to kill you,

and sometimes they let you go.

I like they think
that Donald Trump is like Richie.

I want the bad guys to think
that he could do anything to them.

At any moment. And I think
that that has a positive impact.

Holy shit !

This is why bullying never works.
If you have a bully in school,

there is a good chance he's turning
some kid into the next Geraldo Rivera.

If you have a bully in the White House,
he does impulsive things

that seem to be inching us closer to
potential nuclear war with North Korea.

And it's gonna take an amazing piece
of chocolate cake to help us forget.

And now, this !

You put Easter and local news together,
and what do you fucking expect ?

We've got an Easter egg hunt
that is said to be eggcellent.

So you'd better hop on over
to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

A hop-pening this weekend,
one event in the Northland

is sure to egg-cellent
for the entire family.

The egg-cellent details when I see you
for Eyewitness News at 7 on WYOU.

That's all that it's cracked up to be.

They're here with their parents
getting some egg-cellent goodies.

Your bet your bonnet we have
a plethora of egg-citing events.

This Minnesota restaurant is gearing up
with this eggcellent tradition.

An eggcellent wildcard pick.
See what I did there ?

You were wondering
what's hopping here ?

Sounds like an egg-citing time.

Kids will be able to trade that in
for an egg-stra special treat.

- I saw what you did there.
- It was written in the script.

Moving on. Our main story tonight
concerns France,

home of Babar, the lovable elephant
who becomes less lovable

when you remember
he married his cousin.

Your childhood elephant hero
was a cousin-fucker.

Next Sunday, France holds the first
round of its presidential election.

If you're thinking,
"why should I care ?",

the truth is, it is way more important
than you might realize.

It's a very important election,
what's going to happen in France.

The future of Europe, basically.

France is the election that matters.

These French elections take place
at the crossroad of European history.

It's really defining Europe's fate.

That's right: the fate of Europe
rests in the hands of a country

that looks at snails and says
"I have got to get you in my mouth !"

But it is not an exaggeration
to say that post-Brexit,

and with a wave of far-right populism
sweeping Europe,

the fate of the EU
may hang on this election.

Multiple candidates
support a French Brexit,

and the consequences
of that would be steep.

Frankly, it's not bragging,
but if France is out of the EU,

it's the end of the EU
and the end of the Eurozone.

So a lot of things will depend
on the result of the French elections.

It's true. This could be the most
disastrous French exit in history,

and a "French exit" normally refers
to drinking an entire bottle of red wine

and then leaving the party
with the host's wife.

So, this is a critical election.
Or, technically, 2 critical elections.

The election takes place
in two rounds,

one on April the 23rd,
the next on May the 7th.

The first round will see
all the candidates compete for votes.

In the second, if nobody got more
than half the votes in the first round,

the top two contenders will face off.

What a ridiculous system !
Where are the 51 individual contests

that allot points based on outdated
demographic data that can result

in a decisive loser in the popular
vote count somehow winning ?

Go easy on France !

They're still working out
the kinks in their democracy.

And this election comes
at a time of great volatility.

France has suffered a string
of major terror attacks,

their unemployment rate
is around 10 percent,

and their president, Francois Hollande,
isn't running, for a pretty good reason.

The latest opinion polls have come out.
Francois Hollande is at an alltime low.

He even got close to zero here !

Get ready: according to this poll,
only four percent of French people

are satisfied
by Francois Hollande's presidency.

Four percent !
To put that in perspective:

apparently, the very lowest album
score in Metacritic's history

is 15 percent for Kevin Federline's
"Playing with Fire",

an album
about which Billboard raved,

"in general,
Federline enunciates well."

Even without Hollande running,
his Party is divided and struggling,

with one early contender
to replace him, Manuel Valls,

so widely disliked,
that this happened.

It happened an hour ago
in this cafe behind me, Café Broy,

well known
to Strasbourg residents.

A man approached Manuel Valls
and threw flour at him.

Anywhere else, it might be a bad sign
to have flour thrown at you,

but in a country where pastries
have greater rights than people,

it is possible
that that was an honor.

So, who is running for
this important job ?

There are actually
11 candidates at the moment.

We'll get to the main ones,

but first, you are going to want
to meet some of the outsiders.

Jacques Cheminade,
a conspiracy theorist who once said

that the Queen of England was involved
in international drug trafficking,

and whose platform includes
a plan to colonize Mars,

which he explained magnificently.

Today we don't have
an actual space policy.

We drag rickety obsolete objects
like the old Star Wars rocket.

So it works out in Star Wars
with the weird bear

and Larry Skywalker,
but it doesn't work in real life.

Yes, he said "Larry Skywalker"
and "that weird bear",

presumably meaning Chewbacca.

I think that should've been
those characters' names instead.

"Hi, I'm Han Solo, this is Larry,
and this is our friend,"

"that weird bear or whatever
the fuck he is, I don't know."

Then, there is Jean Lasalle,

who, as you can see,
is almost offensively French.

He once went
on a 39-day hunger strike

to protest a threat
to jobs in his constituency,

and his campaign ads
are mesmerizing.

He rides on a train in moody black
and white, works on his farm,

dances around,
and then mows a hillside shirtless.

His entire life seems like an attempt
to win the game show called:

"So You Think You Can France."

But the thing is there, there are
currently four main candidates

with a real shot
at getting to the second round.

There is Francois Fillon,
the former French prime minister.

He was leading,
but has since fallen back in the polls,

thanks to "Penelopegate",
which sounds like a scandal

involving selling weapons-grade uranium
to Penelope Cruz,

but it involves Fillon allegedly
paying his wife Penelope and children

hundreds of thousands of euros
of public money, for little or no work.

The accusations don't stop !

There are reports he may have
breached electoral rules

after receiving a donation of 2 suits
that together cost 13 000 euros.

I am allowed to be given a suit
by a friend. It's not against the law.

That is a completely normal thing
for adult friends to do.

"Happy birthday ! I got you two suits
that cost about 7 000 dollars each."

"That is a non-suspicious amount
to spend on a gift for a friend."

"How not weird is this ?
Couldn't be not weirder, right ?"

So the French public
turned on Fillon

and you will never guess
how they expressed their anger.

Moments before he took the stage
at a rally,

you'll see he was hit in the face
with some flour.

We can see images
of that happening right there now.

Apparently he had a spare suit,
luckily for him.

It just doesn't look great
to whip out a brand new suit

when you've been essentially accused
of having been bribed in suits.

Maybe go for a tshirt
and shorts there.

Next, there is far-left candidate
Jean-Luc Mélenchon,

who is anti-EU,
and pro-high-tech campaign wizardry.

Answering the eternal question
of how to be in two places at once,

Jean-Luc Melenchon
has embraced holograms.

Where am I ? In Lyon.

And now: in Paris !

Cool. That was both very lame
and very costly.

Like finding out your uncle's
"detachable thumb" trick

cost him $400 000.

That brings us
to the two current frontrunners.

Let's deal with Emmanuel Macron.
Polls suggest that he is the favorite,

which is impressive, considering
he's never held elected office before.

He's a former banker who served
as an economic adviser to Hollande.

If you are falling asleep listening
to me describe him, you're not alone.

Mr. Macron
who is neither left nor right

and is generally inoffensive
to the entire population

is not super attractive to anyone.

He is generally inoffensive
and not super attractive to anyone.

Like the guy who played the main
character on "How I Met Your Mother."

This man, and this is true,
has no name.

Macron has a centrist policy
that is pro-business, pro-Europe,

and aimed
at boosting France's economy.

But the most interesting thing
about him might be this.

Emmanuel Macron was once
a small town boy from Amiens

who met his future wife
here at school.

The only twist
is that she was his teacher.

It's true !
He married his French teacher,

who is 20 years older than him,
and as a result,

Macron, a 39-year-old man,
now has seven stepgrandchildren.

Sorry, but a man in his 30s ending up
with seven step-grandchildren

sounds like the plot of a direct-to-DVD
Ashton Kutcher movie called

"Even on a nine-hour flight
this movie is unwatchable."

If you're wondering:

"did Macron get any baking ingredient
thrown at him during the campaign ?"

What do you think ?

Emmanuel Macron just got hit
in the head with an egg.

So, to recap: that is two cups
of flour and now an egg.

I don't know if the French people
are any closer to picking a president,

but they're about halfway
to making a decent crepe.

And that leaves us
with Marine Le Pen...

Macron's biggest challenger,
and honestly,

she is the main reason you should
be invested in this election.

The Le Pen name
carries a lot of baggage in France.

Her father was Jean-Marie Le Pen,

who co-founded her party,
the National Front.

And he is a deeply unpleasant
human being.

Jean-Marie Le Pen famously
dismissed the Nazi gas chambers

as a mere "detail" of history,

and courts have repeatedly found him
guilty of questioning the Holocaust.

That's a taster.
He also said of one Jewish critic,

"we'll put a batch in the oven
next time".

Which is the kind of vile,
horrific anti-Semitism

that gets most people
permanently banished from society,

as well as an Oscar nomination
for directing "Hacksaw Ridge."

Now, Marine Le Pen actually
kicked her father out of the party,

and has worked hard to rehabilitate
the National Front's reputation

and present a softer image.

And to listen to one French voter,
it seems to have worked.

Why vote Front National ?
It's simple. It's Marine Le Pen.

If it were her father, it would be no,
because he's a crazy old man.

There were skinheads,
thugs, and fascists in the party.

With Marine it's not like that.
There's elegance, a bit of restraint.

Yeah, but elegant presentation
does not negate poisonous content.

A klansman is a klansman even if you
slap a monocle and a top hat on him,

and give him a cane.

Wait, hang on.
Take off the sheet.

I fucking knew it !

You're a monster, Peanut,
you're a monster.

Now, the point is...

Le Pen is particularly popular
among young people in France,

who have a high rate of unemployment,
and have responded to her promises

to give them jobs and to encourage
a "national preference" in employment,

making it more expensive
for businesses to hire non-citizens.

But beneath her slick presentation,
Le Pen's message is vicious.

She was asked
about immigrants in France,

and while her answer started well,
it quickly deteriorated.

I'm a very tolerant
and hospitable person, like you.

Would you accept 12 illegal
immigrants moving into your flat ?

You wouldn't ! On top of that,
they start to remove the wallpaper !

Some of them would steal your
wallet and brutalize your wife.

Brutalizing your wife
and stealing your wallet,

I get, that's just boilerplate racism.

But "people are coming
to take my wallpaper"

is something a crazy person says.

No one wants your wallpaper,
you catastrophically weird person.

While France
is a proudly secular society,

some of Le Pen's proposals
would take that to the extreme.

Should Muslim people
be allowed to wear headscarves ?

I'm opposed to wearing headscarves
in public places. That's not France.

Not just headscarves. Le Pen says
she would ban yarmulkes in public,

any conspicuous symbol
of religious belief.

Would a Sikh person
allowed to be wear a turban ?

No, not in public. We don't have
a lot of Sikhs in France.

We've got some, but we don't hear
much from them or about them,

which is good news.

Is it ?

That is such a reprehensible thing
to say about people you hope to govern.

I never thought I'd say this.
It doesn't make sense:

I hope someone
steals your wallpaper.

I don't know why they would Marine,
but I hope they do.

The truth here is though,
whatever the result of this election,

Le Pen has dangerously
normalized the National Front,

winning seats at the local level,
and a few in the legislature.

Frustrating about watching
this unfold from America

is this feels a little like deja vu:
a potentially destabilizing populist,

campaigning on anti-immigrant rhetoric,
who rages against the elites,

despite having a powerful father
and inherited wealth,

even as the experts reassure us
there is no way that this can happen.

The truth is she's not going to win.

In the second round,
everybody will unite against her.

I would think that most people,
doesn't matter which political color,

will vote for Macron
to block the way to Marine Le Pen.

She will not win. We will not have
in France another Trump election.

She is not named Donald Le Pen.

She is Marine Le Pen.
She will not be elected.

It's the kind
of reckless overconfidence

you normally only see in a
period-piece movie about a tragedy.

"The Hindenburg is the safest
form of travel there is !"

"I'd like to see static electricity try
to set this ship on fire, I tells ya !"

But I would not be so confident,
especially because,

while turnout in French presidential
elections is around 80 percent,

polls show that around 1/3 of French
voters might choose to abstain.

If they do that in the second round,
Le Pen's very motivated voters

could put her in office and that
could be bad for a lot of people.

I would like to try and convince you,
France, not to sit this election out.

To do that, let me appeal to your
innate French sense of superiority

over the U.S. and Britain.

Which is, and it pains to admit this,
not entirely misplaced.

Real French croissants
are buttery pillows of perfection,

whereas the American "croissanwich"
is an ungodly abomination.

Your French wines are magnificent
certainly superior to British wines,

which taste like Michael Caine
urinated in some grape juice.

You love acting like you are better
than Britain and America.

Now is your chance to prove that.

Because we made populist,
nativist choices with Brexit and Trump,

and to be honest, it's not working out
so great for us so far.

And now, you have a populist,
nativist choice of your own.

And just imagine
how superior you can feel

if you don't make
the same mistake that we did.

I want to convince you more, but I know
you don't like big, gaudy gestures.

Let me convince you in the elegant,
restrained manner that you prefer.

Please !

Please join me, France,
at a cozy bistro.

Join me at this bistro

and let us drink wine,
listen to accordion music,

and smoke into each other's faces.

Hello, France !

I know a British man speaking
on an American television show

about the Republic of France
is basically French kryptonite.

That's why I'm speaking French
to you right now,

even though I know
I'm making your elegant language

sound like a Guy Ritchie
remake of "Amelie".

But please, listen:
Britain and America are fucked up.

Don't fuck up, too.

Marine Le Pen is,
how do you say in French ?

A demagogic asshole.

A monstrous, demagogic asshole.
You're better than this.

This is your chance to live up

to the French philosophy
of the Enlightenment,

to show the whole world
that the French ideals

of liberty, equality, and fraternity
go together like...

Larry Skywalker
and, of course, that weird bear.

Help us, France,
you're our only hope.

That's our show,
see you next week.

Good night, my love !