Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 26 - Saudi Arabia - full transcript

Saudi Arabia, despite their numerous human right violations is a long standing close ally of United States of America. John Oliver states the reasons behind the unconventional camaraderie ...

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


Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

After the ralph-inducing devil's
triangle that was last week,

it would have been nice if things
had been better this week.

But they weren't.
The UN released a climate report

that said we may only have
two good decades left,

that study was co-signed by one
of the strongest hurricanes in the US,

then whatever this was happened,
and then there was this.

Neil Armstrong...
He's the man that planted the flag.

Think of that,
on the face of the moon.

He planted that flag, that American
flag, right on the face of the moon.

There was no kneeling. There was
no nothing, there was no games.

There was no games.

How are you tying the NFL
protests to Neil Armstrong ?

There was no kneeling, but also:
no one was playing the National Anthem,

no football game scheduled
in the Sea of Tranquility.

No black astronauts had recently
been shot by moon cops

so none of the essential ingredients
had come together at that point.

Trump was at that rally because
he was trying to whip up enthusiasm

ahead of the midterms, which are
now less than a month away.

The ads are starting to roll out,
and some are pro-Trump,

like this one, from Florida
gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

My husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed
by President Trump,

but he's also an amazing dad.

Ron loves playing with the kids.

Build the wall.

He's teaching Madison to talk.

Make America great again.

He reads stories.

Then Mr. Trump said:
"you're fired". I love that part.

That's borderline child abuse
and second:

he produced an ad essentially saying

"President's slogans are fairy tales
for naive infant children"

and somehow
intended it in a good way.

That ad is a rare
example of positive messaging.

There is a concern that this year's
campaigning is getting too nasty.

Holder faced criticism after suggesting
Democrats change their motto

from "when they go low,
we go high"

to "when they go low,
we kick 'em."

A massive pivot on political
messaging and also happens to be

my strategy
for dealing with squirrels.

When they go low,
I kick 'em.

When they go high,
I swat 'em.

And if they swarm, I do a
move I like to call "helicopter fists".

the Grand Wizard of civil discourse,

called Holder's comments "disgusting"
which is ridiculous coming from him.

It's hypocritical
from the Republican Party in general.

The day after Trump said that,

their candidate for Pennsylvania
governor said this.

Governor Wolf, between now
and November 6th,

you better put a catcher's mask
on your face

because I'm gonna stomp
all over your face with golf spikes

because I'm gonna win this
for Pennsylvania

and we're throwing you out of office
because I'm tired of your negative ads.

Jesus Christ !

How can you be "anti-negative ads"
when your entire ad feels like

a man getting
into a fight in a garage ?

Put on a catcher's mitt, because
I'm gonna stomp on your face,

pin you down with a leaf rake,
jam your feet into a snow blower

and run you all over with
my wife's 2015 Volvo SW,

you worthless piece of shit,
let's raise the tone here, asshole !

I'm not a fan of attack ads.
They are never pretty.

Every once in a while, someone comes
and elevates the form.

And my favorite ad
was one in Texas,

which strikes
at the essential essence of Ted Cruz.

Somebody left something
on my door the other day,

it said:
"Ted Cruz is Tough as Texas".

If somebody called my wife a dog,

and said my daddy
was in on the Kennedy assassination,

I wouldn't be kissing their ass.

You drag their ass out by the woodshed
and kick their ass, Ted.

Come on... Ted.

Come on, it's just his name,
and yet somehow, that final "Ted"

might be the meanest thing
ever said about Ted Cruz.

That ad could've had the same impact
if it were just three seconds long.

Come on... Ted.

See ? That gets
the point across perfectly.

That man is an assassin
whose weapon is his voice,

and I am confident there is
nothing he could not destroy,

simply by saying its name
with full Texas contempt.

The reason I am so confident
about that is,

we tracked that man down
and put it to the test.

The Man From The Ted Cruz Ad Says
8 More Names With Total Contempt.

Ed Sheeran.
Diane Keaton.

Banksy. Madonna.

Labradoodle. Cher.

Lobster Fest.

John Oliver.

John Oliver ? Come on, John !

Moving on.

So, our main story tonight
concerns Saudi Arabia.

Birthplace of the prophet
Muhammad. The prophet Muhammad.

Our graphics department must have
decided against that one.

Saudi Arabia has been
in the news this week,

for an appalling reason, it has to do
with Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,

U.S. resident and columnist
for "Washington Post",

not seen since
he stepped into Saudi consulate

in Turkey to pick up
paperwork 12 days ago.

Jamal Khashoggi, captured
on closed-circuit cameras

stepping into what authorities
believe was a death trap.

Turkish authorities identified
15 Saudi men as persons of interest.

Hours before
Khashoggi went missing,

several of them were caught on
camera arriving in Istanbul.

A Turkish official tells
"The New York Times"

Saudi agents had "dismembered
his body with a bone saw."

It's horrific.
And the Saudis deny it happened.

Although let us all agree on this:

a bone saw, in any context,
is an immediate red flag.

Thanks for inviting me
over for Thanksgiving, Craig.

The turkey's delicious,
the stuffing is perfect,

that's a very large bone saw,
and I remembered I have to leave now.

Saudi officials scrambled to explain
all the suspicious activity,

with the Saudi-owned
channel Al Arabiya claiming

that the 15 people who turned up
in Istanbul were just tourists.

Which is clearly bullshit,
given that flight logs showed

that most of the men arrived on
a private charter plane at 3:13

and that all of them departed
the same day they arrived.

Which is a pretty weird vacation !

I want to see Istanbul, but only for
a few hours, mostly at night,

and I need
to bring my bone saw.

The "we were just tourists" excuse
isn't even a new one.

In the wake of Russia's
poisoning of Sergei Skripal,

the suspects
tried the same thing.

What were you doing there ?

Our friends had been suggesting
that we visit this wonderful town.

Salisbury, a wonderful town ?


There's the famous Salisbury cathedral,
famous in the whole world.

It's famous for its 123-meter spire.
It's famous for its clock,

the one of the first ever created
in the world that's still working.

I love how
the reporter became suspicious

when they called Salisbury
"a wonderful town".

It's like if you heard someone
call celery "a delicious treat".

I don't know what else
you're not telling the truth about,

but now I know
you're a fucking liar.

Second: "it's famous
for its 123-meter spire ?"

They sound like they're reading
off the Wikipedia page for Salisbury.

Why do I love Salisbury ?

The population is 40 302 and their
Member of Parliament is John Glenn,

a conservative whose eight-year tenure
has been viewed as a failure,

open brackets, citation needed,
close brackets.

For all the Saudi denials, things are
not looking good right now,

as the Turkish government reportedly
have proof of the assassination.

This story is incredibly grim.

While this may be the first that
you have heard of Jamal Khashoggi,

he has long been a significant
figure in Saudi Arabia,

a thoughtful, and by no means radical
critic of the Saudi royal family.

The only reason to kill a journalist
in your own consulate

with 15 people and a bone saw
you flew in that day,

is 'cause you wanted to send a message
and you were sure you could get away.

Which raises the question:
why would they be so sure ?

And part of that answer
may have to do with us.

Let's take a look at America's
relationship with Saudi Arabia.

We have a long
and morally compromised history.

For decades, we have had a relationship
based on strategic interests,

not shared values:
they have oil, we need it.

They opposed Iran, and so did we.
And for those and other reasons,

U.S. presidents have been willing
to pander to Saudi Arabia.

In doing so, we've conveniently turned
a blind eye to a lot of things,

from human rights abuses to
the Saudi leadership's role

in funding religious extremism, even
while partnering with us to fight it.

It's always been
a very complicated relationship,

but in the last years, it's gotten
closer, thanks to two new leaders.

Trump and Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman.

And let's take the prince first.
Though his father is still alive,

since last year, the prince
has been running the country

and has branded himself as MBS,
the young, new face of Saudi Arabia.

He made the cover of "Time Magazine"

and "60 Minutes" profiled him as
a progressive voice for the country.

His reforms inside Saudi Arabia
have been revolutionary.

He is emancipating women,
introducing music and cinema

and cracking down on corruption.

There is some truth to that.

He's attempted to reduce the
influence of hard-line clerics,

he has agreed to let women drive

and he's allowed movie theaters
after a 35-year ban.

One of the very first movies
they showed there

was "The Emoji Movie".

Which is actually how it was
always supposed to be seen:

by a group of people who had never
seen a good movie to compare it to.

All of that has been combined
with a major plan

to re-orient the Saudi economy
away from oil and toward technology

called "Vision 2030".

MBS has gone on a world tour,

to reassure investors that
Saudi Arabia is stable and progressive

and that businesses should
feel comfortable with them.

He's taken meetings with Tim Cook,
Bill Gates and Richard Branson

and he's even had Starbucks
with Michael Bloomberg.

While the Starbucks baristas
nailed "Mohammed bin Salman",

Bloomberg still ended up with
a cup reading "Mikey Boom-Burp".

As part of his PR push, MBS started
an annual business conference,

the Future Investment Initiative,
or "Davos in the Desert".

The first was held
at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh,

featuring leaders
of many big-name companies,

and the usual futuristic
tech bullshit like this.

We have smart investors here

and they are very selective
about what they invest in.

I'm special. I can use my expressive
face to communicate with people.

But why is it important for you
to have an expressive face ?

Most of the time I feel positive.

God !
That is a creepy smile.

That's the exact same smile
that I've seen the Queen give

when she has to interact
with a commoner.

I believe you won some contest to
come to my house and look at things.

What a positive day
for one of us !

Don't touch anything !

But MBS's PR push isn't just
toward attracting businesses.

It's also toward changing the
world's perception of Saudi Arabia.

He struck a ten-year deal
with one of the most popular

and most American franchises,
World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE.

They held their first of many
events there back in April

and audiences around the world were
treated to wall-to-wall propaganda,

including a video showing women
happily driving, men dancing

and tourist destination
beauty shots,

as well as compliments
throughout the broadcast.

For the first time,

WWE bringing an event of this
magnitude to Saudi Arabia.

This vibrant, progressive city,
our host tonight.

It's all part
of the Saudi Vision 2030.

King Abdullah's sports city
stadium just got on its feet.

That area has been reserved
for the Saudi royal family.

I want to send a genuine thank you
to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

WWE is as overtly pro-Saudi Arabia
as it is latently homo-erotic.

Which is to say: intensely.

MBS is far from the political reformer
that he's been presented as.

Scratch any positive
story about him

and you will find a much
grimmer truth.

While the country did get headlines
for ending its ban on women driving,

weeks before, authorities arrested
about a dozen female activists

who'd campaigned
for the right to drive.

Even that investment conference
had a dark coda.

One week later, at the same hotel,
this happened.

New footage from inside
the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh,

shows the transformation from
a favorite haunt of the well-heeled

into arguably
the world's most luxurious prison.

MBS used that Ritz-Carlton
to lock up hundreds of businessmen

and members of the royal family in
a so-called anti-corruption campaign.

17 detainees were reportedly
hospitalized for physical abuse,

and one Saudi military officer
died in custody.

Which is insane and horrifying,
because the only hotel

where you expect to be
murdered is a Days Inn.

Hence their slogan: "Days Inn:
expect to be murdered here."

Bin Salman has been aggressive
with his neighbors,

launching a blockade of Qatar
that continues today,

as does an absolutely brutal war
in Yemen that has resulted

in over 16 000 casualties
and killed over 1 200 children.

The Saudi campaign of airstrikes
has been catastrophic,

as this man attested while standing
near what used to be his home.

Saudi Arabia bombs without care.

How many of your family
were killed ?

27 lives. 27 people.
From one family.

Any reason why your family and this
house might have been struck ?

I am not a leader or anything.
I work as a barber.

That's terrible.
At the very least,

there is no justification
for violence against a barber.

And that is coming from me.
If anyone has a justification,

it would be yours truly,
because of what they did to me.

As all of this has happened,
our current president continued

to accommodate
and ignore bin Salman's excesses.

After that clampdown on corruption at
the Ritz-Carlton, many sounded alarm.

Trump went the other way.

Trump endorsed bin Salman's new
corruption crackdown, tweeting:

"I have great confidence in King Salman
and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,"

"they know
what they are doing."

Right. Just because they know
what they're doing

doesn't mean
that what they're doing is good.

Michael Jordan knew what he was doing
when he wore this mustache.

He was seeing how far this whole
Michael Jordan thing could take him

and the answer was apparently:
through Hitler and beyond.

That fits with the larger pattern
of Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia,

'cause since taking office,
he has catered to them at every turn.

He made Saudi Arabia the first foreign
country he visited as president

and he seemed to have
a great time there.

Dancing with a sword and famously
groping a weird glowing orb.

After which I assume Michael Cohen
offered the orb $130 000

and told it to keep quiet.

It shouldn't be that surprising

that Trump embraced
the Saudi royal family.

They have the two qualities
he admires most in the world:

having a lot of money
and giving it to him.

He basically said as much
on the campaign trail.

Saudi Arabia. And I get along
great with all of them.

They buy apartments from me.
They spend fifty million.

I like them very much.

Buying an apartment from Trump is
a surefire way to get him to like you,

along with wearing one
of his hats,

being under 25 years old
with a size 32-double-D

and not being Eric.

He's a simple man
with simple tastes.

Trump's businessman view
of the Saudis as just

"people with money,
don't ask too many questions"

has carried over
now that he's president.

When bin Salman
came to the White House,

Trump boasted about the amount
of arms that they were buying from us,

essentially using MBS
as a human easel.

Some of the things that have been
approved and are under construction

and will be delivered
to Saudi Arabia very soon

and that's for their protection,
but if you look, in terms of dollars,

$3 billion, $533 million,

$525 million,
that's peanuts for you.

$880 million, $645 million,

$6 billion, that's for frigates.

Has any human in the history
more obviously just learned a word

than he just learned
the word "frigates" ?

Look at bin Salman's face, as it hits
him just how much Trump likes money.

It's like the face of a babysitter

who realized you can pacify a kid
with Twizzlers.

I thought this was gonna be difficult,
but if all you want is Twizzlers,

I've got loads of them, take all
you want and shut the fuck up.

I am by no means saying
that Trump is the first U.S. president

to make distasteful
arms deals with the Saudis.

We've been doing it for decades.
Obama still sold them weapons,

even as Saudi Arabia
got involved in Yemen.

Trump has continued doing so,

even as signs mount
of Saudi recklessness.

They dropped an American-made bomb
on a school bus full of children,

but a month later, Trump's Defense
Secretary said that Saudi Arabia

was doing everything it could
to prevent civilian casualties.

Trump has gone out of his way
to accommodate the Saudis.

He doesn't even have
an ambassador to the kingdom.

Our relationship with them is being
handled personally by Jared.

Ivanka Trump's real doll.

The Saudis seem understandably
very happy with that situation.

Kushner took an unannounced
trip to Saudi Arabia in 2017

to meet with the young prince.

MBS boasted Kushner was "in his
pocket", which bin Salman denied.

Of course he's in their pocket.
He's fucking Jared.

That face was born
to be maneuvered.

His Secret Service nickname is
"wallet, keys and a bit of lint".

While the fact that the U.S. has
enabled Saudi Arabia is nothing new,

the extent to which Trump
is prioritizing money is dangerous.

Is it any wonder that they
have been emboldened here ?

After MBS's roundup of his rivals,
Trump tweeted his support.

After his blockade of Qatar,
Trump took credit for it

and that kind
of shit has consequences.

Trump has chosen extreme
friendliness with MBS,

a leader who, in the words
of one Saudi critic, has created

a "climate of fear and intimidation"
going on: "we Saudis deserve better".

That critic was Jamal Khashoggi.
The journalist who is widely thought

to have been murdered
in the Saudi consulate.

While Trump said Saudi Arabia
faces "severe punishment"

if it's proven they were behind this,

does anyone believe that is something
he's honestly committed to ?

A more revealing response
came in the Oval Office,

after the news of Khashoggi's
disappearance broke.

Watch him render the costbenefit
analysis he was applying.

Again, this took place in Turkey

and, to the best of our knowledge,
Khashoggi is not a US citizen.

Is that right, or, is that right ?
He's a permanent resident, okay.

We don't like it, John,
we don't like it even a little bit,

but as to whether or not we should
stop a hundred and ten billion dollars

from being spent in this country,
knowing they have five alternatives,

that would not be
acceptable to me.

He is openly demonstrating
to the entire world

and to Saudi Arabia specifically,

that arms deal... much more important
than butchered journalist.

Giving Saudi Arabia green lights
for two solid years had consequences

and a lot of people now have
big decisions to make.

The second "Davos in the Desert"
begins nine days from now

and all of these companies
have pulled out,

although as of now, Steve Mnuchin
is still planning to attend.

The desert is comfortably hot enough
without that smokeshow.

Am I right ? Smokeshow, right ?
He can get it.

That's a "fuck me" face.
Am I right on that ?

As for the WWE, while they say
they are "monitoring the situation",

their gigantic Crown Jewel event
is scheduled for November.

John Cena could be back there,
doing this, which in this context

would mean "you don't see these
human rights abuses right here."

As for the president,
every U.S. leader has chosen

to make compromises
when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

Trump may well be the first
who doesn't see it as a compromise.

Because he and MBS are similar
in some of the worst possible ways.

They love money. They're
a product of inherited wealth.

Love self-promotion,
yet disdain the press.

They share a design
aesthetic that amounts to

"Elvis tries to remember what
Versailles looks like, but can't."

Trump's intense bromance
with MBS is bad news.

When you set no boundaries
on an oppressive regime,

they are always going to ask: "how
much can we get away with here ?"

As we saw this week, the answer
to that may be: pretty much anything.

And now this.

Footage Of Happy
People Doing Happy Things,

To Distract You From
Horrifying Drug Side Effects.

Serious side effects,
including pancreatitis.

Common side effects are nausea,
diarrhea, vomiting.

Chest-pain, shortness of breath,
diarrhea, severe stomach pain.

Tiredness, loss of appetite,
and bleeding or bruising easily.

Aggression, hostility,
depressed mood.

Dizziness, cough,
ankle swelling.

Other side effects:
gas, stomach pain.

Sleepwalking or allergic
and skin reactions.

May cause skin to turn
yellow or orange.

Large or painful breasts,
blood clots in the legs.

Blood clots that can lead
to death.

Extreme fatigue, constipation,
swollen ankles, loss of appetite,

confusion, hallucinations.

Infections, tiredness, nausea,
sore mouth, diarrhea,

vomiting, rash
and loss of appetite.

Alice calls it her new normal.

And finally tonight, Instagram.
The place you go to have

your most transformative life
experiences rated by strangers.

Only 96 likes ?
Better luck next baby.

Just last month,
Instagram had some dramatic news.

The co-founders of Instagram are
resigning from the popular platform.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger
said they plan to leave Instagram

to: "explore our curiosity
and creativity again."

This is a shockeroo
in this industry.

Absolutely. Big move.

Gayle, if I can quickly correct you,
the only "shockeroo" in Silicon Valley

is Elon Musk's
patented sex machine.

This was just a regular old surprise.
Sleep well everyone, nighty night.

While it is too soon to say what
this might mean for Instagram,

I do hope that it won't stop them
from fulfilling their primary function

which is providing an outlet for people
to express themselves.

Go to my Instagram,
I'd love to hear from you.

You can go straight to my Instagram
page @AriMelber on Instagram.

Tweet me or
go to my Instagram page.

Catch my story on Instagram.

Don't forget,
judge underscore Jeanine.

An adult asking you
to follow them on social media

gives off the same vibe as a clown
asking you to join him in a sewer.

I don't know what you're doing there,
but I don't want to join you.

If you do choose to follow
news anchors on Instagram,

a whole world of sad
wonder awaits you.

Anderson Cooper and Brooke Baldwin
post pictures of their dogs.

Like posting pictures of your kids,
except other people enjoy it too.

John Dickerson also
posts photos with his dog,

in which he winds up looking
like a serial killer.

Others go in a weirder direction.
CNN's Don Lemon

has made a habit of posting not one,
but three videos of fireplaces,

which is a complete waste
of his and everyone's time.

Mika Brzezinski, whose Instagram
shows you that she has a pet pig,

something she likes to
show off, to horrifying effect.

She might get mad at me, but I'll
give you one last look at her tummy.

She's a big girl !
She's got a big tummy !

Put the pig down !
Put that fucking pig down !

I never thought I would say this
in a non-Joe Scarborough context,

but Mika Brzezinski,
step away from the pig !

I understand the mistake.
You go to pick up your pig

and the pig reacts by screaming
like a banshee with a stubbed toe.

The key is, you learn
your lesson from it

and you never,
ever do it again.

I'm gonna make a gif.

What are you doing, Mika ?
That's not how gif's work.

"A", they're silent,

and "B", they tend not to be
heavy on the pig torture.

There is the host of ABC's World
News Tonight, David Muir,

whose Instagram is littered with him
doing his best "blue steel".

Here he is, staring
down a hurricane.

Here he is, posing on a plane,
here he is, flexing on a plane,

and waiting outside a restaurant
looking like Ross from "Friends",

if instead of falling in love with
Rachel he fell in love with himself.

But the single greatest
cable news Instagrammer,

and I do not
mean that as a compliment,

has to be CNN's Chris Cuomo,
who is constantly posting videos

with fun peeks
behind the scenes of his show.

Like with this makeup, the truth
can be concealed and covered up.

That's with the spin
about these Russia developments.

We're gonna focus on what
really matters: u-n-i-t-y.

I wrote it this way because I wanted it
to be hard for you to catch it.

News time !


We should all just stay tuned
while Chris Cuomo fights the news.

You may be wondering: who is
holding the camera there ?

if it's anything like his other
workplace videos,

the answer is his poor producer,

We're getting ready
to start the show, Rose.

Rose, here's what
we should talk about today.

Rose, you forgot to tell people
we're going to be on TV tonight.

They searched the offices
of the president's lawyer.

This is a storm, Rose.
See the lightning ?

It's a factory, Rose.
That's an Easter egg, Rose.

Look at all the snow, Rose.
The snow has stopped.

Thank you for coming along,
not you, Rose, that's your job.

We all got to the first base of
sexual harassment with Chris Cuomo.

The oddest feature of Chris Cuomo's
Instagram is videos of him working out.

There are many videos of him
lifting, sweating and grunting.

Far be it from me to judge
Chris Cuomo,

his triceps are wider
than my entire body.

But something about his
thirst-pit of an Instagram

feels a little desperate for approval
no more so than with his efforts

to get his catchphrase to happen.

Just getting
a little preshow pump.

- What does that say ?
- Cuomo Primetime.

Hashtag let's get after it.

What do you say ?
Let's get after it !

Let's get after it !

What do you say ?
Let's get after it !

Instead of doing that, let's
get after that catchphrase.

Let's hunt it down, catch it
and kill it forever.

For all my criticism,
this has actually inspired me.

I'm kind of on TV.
I should be using Instagram.

Instead of a Cuomo style account,
which makes you feel shitty

about your physical fitness and
your lack of a sidekick named Rose,

I'm gonna capture the hearts
and minds of people

who do not want to get after it,
because they're tired.

This is why I'm kicking off the
"Let's Not Get After It" challenge.

You take a picture of your body
functioning totally ageappropriately,

and you post it using the hashtag
#let's not get after it.

I already put a few on our show's
Instagram page to get the ball rolling.

Here's a video of me winded after
climbing a medium number of stairs.

#LetsNotGetAfterIt" #BreatheMode",

Here's another one of me
struggling to open a jar

before handing it to someone stronger,
who then opens it easily.

I'm giving that
the hashtag #LetsNotGetAfterIt"


Here's one final video I posted:
that's me not lifting a pig,

because the pig doesn't like it.


I am challenging you,
the viewers, to take to Instagram

and get after it only as much as
is comfortable and appropriate for you.

That is our show, thanks for watching,
we'll see you next week, good night !

I'm not gonna pick you up.

I sense you don't want to be picked up
so I shall not pick you up.

We can just sit here,
man and pig. Yeah ?

You want to go over there ?
You can go over there.

I won't pick you up and bring you
back over here

'cause I sense you want to be
somewhere different from where I am.

I often feel that way.

Here's what I'm not gonna do.
That. 'Cause you didn't want it.