Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 28 - Family Separation - full transcript

John Oliver gives a quick recap about the USA's midterm election activities. Then he talks about the main story of the night: Family Separation. He discussed the absurdity of the policy and...

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

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

A quick recap of the week,
which has been dominated

by the run-up to
this Tuesday's midterm elections,

which promise either joy
or disappointment.

Like hearing this music
coming up the street.

It might be an ice cream truck,
it might be that weird guy

who only plays calliope covers
of "Turkey in the Straw".

It could very much
still go either way.

Trump made his final argument
to his base, veering off message,

like when he brought up
Republicans lose the House.

It could happen. We're doing
very well in the Senate.

But could happen. And
you know what you do ?

My whole life,
you know what I say ?

"Don't worry about it, I'll just
figure it out." Does that make sense ?

That does actually
kind of make sense !

Trump has failed upward
for 72 straight years,

why should he stop now ?

At the Pearly Gates,

there's a non-zero chance
that he'll get in,

marry three hot angels
and be elected the next God.

This campaign, at every level, has
been exceptional for its negativity.

Take California Congressman
Duncan Hunter,

who gained notoriety for
vaping in a Congressional hearing,

which is exactly what you'd
expect a congressman

named "Duncan Hunter" to do.

Hunter went negative during campaign
in an attack ad against his opponent.

Ammar Campa-Najjar
is working to infiltrate Congress.

He used three names
to hide family's ties to terrorism.

His grandfather masterminded
the Munich massacre.

He is supported by CAIR
and the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is a well-orchestrated plan.

Ammar Campa-Najjar,
a risk we can't ignore.

A lot to unpack there,
let's start with the fact

that you are arguing this guy
changed his name

so that Americans wouldn't associate
him with terrorism

and landed
on "Ammar Campa-Najjar" ?

You'd have thought he might go
with something safer,

like "James Wonderbread"
or "Benjamin Americaface"

or something that plays to the
Islamophobic crowd, "Duncan Hunter".

I'm not gonna go through
everything untrue in that ad,

"Washington Post"
gave it a rating of four "Pinocchios",

although I'm surprised it didn't
get one Pinocchio

that hung itself with a note:

"I saw what your world
has to offer those who are different"

"and I no longer wish
to be a real boy in it."

It is hard to call Campa-Najjar
a security threat when he had

a security clearance for his past
work in the Obama White House.

Which is something that cloud chaser
probably couldn't get,

'cause he and his wife are under
indictment for illegally using

$250 000 of campaign funds
on personal expenses.

They have pled not guilty, but
the indictment itself is incredible,

Hunter spent $14 000
on a family vacation to Italy,

$462 for 30 shots of tequila and one
steak at a bachelor party,

$835 on Riverdance tickets

and $250 to fly a family pet,
a rabbit, to Washington D.C.

A $250 way to freak your
rabbit the fuck out.

It's a burrowing herbivore,

no part of it is jazzed to be
launched into the sky.

You think your ears pop ?
You don't know shit.

You don't know shit
about popping ears !

Things have also been
spicy in Iowa's Fourth,

where Steve King, who has a history
of flirting with white nationalists,

has gotten in hot water for
meeting with an Austrian party

founded by an S.S. officer.

When asked about that this week,
he did not take it well.

And this is over
if he keeps talking.

This is over
if you don't stop talking.

I'm leaving if you don't...

I think he's given his answer.
His answer is his answer.

Stop it !

Stop it !

That is a spectacular whiff
when the question is simply

"Are you a white supremacist ?"

People who aren't white
supremacists say "no".

Even people who are white
supremacists know to say "no".

It takes a special mix of racism and
stupid to fuck that one up.

King lost a number of supporters,
including the corporate PACs

of Land O'Lakes, Purina,
and our parent company, AT&T.

King has been pretty much exactly
this racist for years now,

including once tweeting:

"Culture and demographics
are our destiny."

"We can't restore our civilization
with somebody else's babies."

Even neo-Nazi website
"Daily Stormer" has said:

"Steve King is basically an
open white nationalist at this point."

So the news really shouldn't be
"these companies bailed on him"

so much as: "they were okay with
him for a shockingly long time."

AT&T didn't catch on
to King's white nationalism.

Picking up on clear signals
isn't exactly their forte.

How do you like them apples,
business daddy ?

I'll bet you don't like
those apples, do you ?

All that toxicity makes you
grateful for the glorious silliness

of what happened in Nebraska's
first district.

A University of Nebraska professor
says he's been threatened

by Jeff Fortenberry's
campaign manager

after liking a picture on Facebook.

This is that picture.

Somebody put googly eyes
on Fortenberry's campaign sign

and changed it
to read "Jeff Fartenberry".

I don't know if Banksy's getting
better or worse. But he's changed.

Fartenberry was upset about this sign
and his chief of staff, Reyn Archer,

overreacted, to the point where
he called a local professor

named Ari Kohen, to complain,
because Kohen had liked that image.

Kohen recorded that call
and it's amazing.

- What you're liking is vandalism.
- No, it's not.

- Yes, it is.
- I'm liking a photo.

You're liking what
the photo represents is vandalism.

If someone were liking something with
blackface, would that be acceptable ?

Wait. I think I actually know
the answer to that question: no.

Blackface is not acceptable.

God, I just won !

I'm replacing Megyn Kelly
on the Today Show !

That's all it took ! What an
incredibly easy standard to meet !

Thank you so much,
personification of NBC !

Thank you so much.
It's lovely to see you.

What're you doing ?

Wait. No ! I'm not gonna
be that kind of Today Show host.

No, you've been through a lot,
haven't you ?

You've really been through a lot.
Just go home.

Just go home and you try
and get some rest.

It sounds rough over there.
Let me go.

The Peacock, ladies and gentlemen.
Tough place to work, historically.

Liking this sign is the same as liking
a photo involving blackface.

Signs like these come out
of a very racist tradition,

evoking offensive stereotypes
that all white people

have big googly eyes
and fart all the time.

Only some white people have
big googly eyes and fart all the time,

like Paul McFartney, Fartin Sheen,
Jimmy Farter, Melissa Joan Fart,

Dolly Farton, and, of course,

But that's it. Those are
the only examples.

My favorite part of the call came
when Fortenfarty's chief of staff

tried to pressure the professor, by
threatening to take this to the public

and the professor
tried to dissuade him.

We have a First Amendment opportunity
to basically put you out there

in front of everybody and even
put this clearly as:

"why is a professor
liking vandalism ?"

We can do that publicly.
Would you like that ?

- That's our First Amendment right too.
- It'd be a terrible idea for you.

No. How so ?

Because the optics
of this are terrible.

Yes, they are.

If you are arguing it's wrong for
anyone to like "Jeff Fartenberry",

I don't think you're gonna find
a groundswell of public support.

In an election season
featuring a vaping douche

and someone so racist
that butter had to weigh in,

this might be the best optics
you can possibly hope for.

And now this.

Our Annual Check-In
With The Consequences

Of Combining Local News Shows
And Halloween.

- Happy Halloween !
- Good morning !

Dracula runs on Dunkin.

With extra blood.
I can't drink it.

Happy Halloween !

Yes, it's turtle power,
all morning long here on BT.

Everybody wants to have the yard
and the garden. It's the envy.

I brought you a treat too.
A doggy treat.

We put these together on the cheap.
Because we do have a cheap budget.

Look at us. As Fred and Velma ?
Wilma ?

No, I'm Daphne.

- So cute in your bunny outfit.
- You made me wear it.

The scary credit card mistake
that most consumers make.

According to the National
Safety Council...

Children are more than twice
as likely to get hit by a car

on Halloween
than any other day of the year.

Moving on. Our main story
tonight concerns immigration,

the system that brought you me.

But it's still good and I promise
that won't happen again.

has been dominating the news,

as migrants from Central America
continues to head north

and despite it being a thousand
miles and possibly months away,

Trump made it a centerpiece
of his closing argument.

At this very moment, large,
well-organized caravans of migrants

are marching
toward our southern border.

Some people call it an "invasion".
It's like an invasion.

A lot of young men, strong men.

A lot of men that maybe
we don't want in our country.

I don't want them in our country.

And women don't want them
in our country.

Women want security. Men don't
want them in our country.

But the women do not want them.
Women want security.

Young strong men are invading
and coming for our women.

That is such old-timey racism
I'm amazed that image

didn't automatically turn
black and white as he talked,

like "Pleasantville" in reverse.

Trump has been threatening
immigration actions ranging

from sending troops to the border,
to ending birthright citizenship.

Hard to know what the president
will or even can do.

Instead of hypotheticals,
it might be useful

to look backwards at something
he did do concerning immigrants:

family separation.

It was part
of his "zero tolerance" policy,

parents crossing border were locked up
and had their children taken away.

The story dominated the news
with distressing images

of kids in cages and shelters,
Melania's very cool jacket

reading: "I Really Don't Care, Do U ?"
and, of course, this moment.

I read today about a ten-year-old
girl with Down syndrome

who was taken from her mother
and put in a cage.

Did you say "womp-womp" to
a ten year old with Down syndrome ?

Yes, he did ! Corey Lewandowski
said "womp womp".

If there is any justice,
that will be carved on his gravestone

and when he arrives at
the Pearly Gates, he'll hear:

"Hi, Corey. I've been waiting
a long time to say this to you..."

After a national outcry
and court challenges,

the president signed
an order reversing course

and the story kind of faded
from the headlines.

It is worth revisiting, a number
of government reports came out,

giving us a clearer picture
of what was happening.

While it seemed malicious
and chaotic, at every step,

it was even worse
than you might assume.

So let's look at two major
aspects of family separation:

how it was done and why
and let's start with the how.

You remember stories of parents unsure
where their children had been taken.

When Alex Azar
was asked about this,

he reassured everyone that
there was nothing to worry about.

No reason why any parent would
not know where their child is located.

I sat on the ORR portal
with just basic keystrokes,

within seconds, could find any child
in our care for any parent.

It's not every day that you see
a man testify with the goal

of convincing people he has access
to a lot of kids on his computer.

Just a few taps on the ol' keyboard
and it's kid-city on this thing.

I open my computer,
I'm up to my neck in children.

I heard how that sounds
and you know what, I like it.

While Azar may've known
where the kids in his custody were,

that was
only one piece of the puzzle.

The critical information that allowed
kids to be matched with parents

was compiled by a different
department, Homeland Security,

their data was not just
incomplete and inconsistent,

but that each step of this process
was: "vulnerable to human error,"

"increasing the risk that
a child could be lost in the system."

You shouldn't be able to lose children
in a government system

as easily as in
a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit.

We're gonna have to call
off the search, Mrs. Donaldson.

Ralphie's lost to the balls, now.

While we've been told that the
government separated 2 600 children

and that about 220 kids are still
being held away from their parents,

we can't say for sure whether
those numbers are accurate.

Two weeks ago, the government
found 14 more children

and added them to its tally.

14 children were missing
and we didn't even know it.

How was that not a bigger story ?

When those 12 boys were stuck
in a cave in Thailand,

there were live cameras and Elon Musk
was sending submersibles

and calling rescuers "pedophiles".

I'm not saying that's what
I wanted to happen here.

But at least people were
fucking paying attention.

All this incompetence
should have been obvious.

When non-profits tried
to check on the kids,

the government didn't locate those
that were listed as being present.

We were given a list by the government
and we were told

we could choose
who we wanted to speak to.

Looking through the list
of over 500 names,

I noticed that there were
very young children there,

including a two year old,
several one year olds

and one child
that was listed as being zero.

I asked to see those children.
They left and came back

and said they couldn't
find the children.

"We called out their name
and nobody responded."

"So we don't know
where they are."

These are babies.

They're not gonna
respond to their name being called.

Anyone who calls a baby's name
and then gives up on finding them

either knows nothing about babies
or is covering for a baby

who doesn't
want to be reached.

Sorry, tell them I'm not in today.
I'm up to my diaper in triangles here

and I've got a 2:30 meeting
with my own toes to prep for.

Mondays, am I right ?
I don't know the days of the week.

I am, after all, a fucking baby.

Even with the help of nonprofits
in locating and reuniting parents

hundreds of whom were actually
deported without their children,

the government still had fuckups.

When one mother who'd had her
5-month-old baby taken away,

was later handed back
the wrong baby.

And just imagine thinking you're
about to be reunited with your child

and being given
someone else's shitty baby.

I say this as a parent:
my infant is a miracle and a joy.

Anyone else's is a charmless
snot-monster. Get it away from me.

To put it mildly, when it comes
to "how did we do this ?"

the answer is a combination of
"incompetently" and "cruelly".

Which brings us to the other
big question: Why did we do this ?

Some in the Trump administration
argue they had no choice.

Are you intending for this
to play out as it is playing out ?

For parents to be separated from
their children ? To send a message ?

I find that offensive.

Why would I ever create a policy
that purposely does that ?

- Perhaps as a deterrent.
- No.

No ! A deterrent ?
I would never ! You offend me, sir.

About this administration: you've
figured out what they're doing

when they get offended by your
description of what they might do.

It's like a poker player ejaculating
every time they have a good hand.

We all see
what's happening here.

The official line was that family
separations were not a deterrent,

but a consequence of having
to enforce the law,

as the then acting head of ICE,
Thomas Homan, explained.

Every law enforcement agency

separates parents from children
when they're arrested for a crime.

We are enforcing
the criminal laws.

I don't blame anybody for
wanting to be in the greatest country,

but there's a right way to do it
and a wrong way.

It's hard to listen to someone say
"we're the greatest country",

while justifying why we're
ripping kids away from their parents,

especially when that person looks
like what would happen

if a can of Monster Energy
fucked John Lithgow.

A few things there regarding
the "right way".

Many of these people
were applying for asylum,

meaning they're seeking
protection from persecution.

Under international and U.S. law,
it is legal to apply for that

no matter
how you enter the country.

While the Trump administration
insisted that the "right way"

for asylum seekers to come in
was through official border crossing,

they made it more difficult
to do that,

with many being repeatedly
denied entry into the country

and forced to wait days
or even weeks.

You can't arbitrarily delay people
that long, they're looking for safety,

not AT&T customers
trying to speak to a representative.

That's right, I've got you,
business daddy !

What are you gonna do about ?
I'm right here !

Crossing the border
in "the wrong way"

is only a misdemeanor
on first offense.

Most people are usually
just sentenced to time served.

Contrary to what you might think,

most of the parents who were separated
from their kids were charged,

pled guilty, and served
their sentence, all fairly quickly.

In the past, we didn't prosecute
parents and let many of them go free

awaiting their immigration
hearing, which makes sense.

Why did we suddenly start keeping
people who had served their time

away from their kids ?

Trump hated the old system.
He called it "catch and release"

and he described it
in wildly misleading terms.

We catch a criminal, a real
criminal, a rough, tough criminal,

we take his name
and then we release him.

We say please show up to court
in a couple of months.

You know what the chances of getting
him to court are ? Like zero, okay ?

When Trump said
the number "zero",

you knew no matter what the number
was, it was definitely not zero !

If he says something's hot, it's cold.
If he says something's up, it's down.

If "this is a cute puppy",
you'd think:

"I'm not sure why or how, but that
puppy is definitely an asshole."

When it comes to families
seeking asylum,

who were the ones largely
impacted by family separation,

the number is far from zero.

96 percent of them turned up to court
after being released from detention.

Under an Obama program called
"family case management"

where each family was assigned
a case manager,

99.3 percent
attended their hearing.

So Trump was wrong.
He was 99.3 percent wrong !

And you know what
that means: we got him !

We got him !

You're probably expecting the tiger
to come out now, but sadly,

he died of sadness
several months ago so,

all this button now does
is increase my morphine drip.

It numbs the pain. It's not
perfect but it helps. See you later.

Trump discontinued that program,

despite the fact that even ICE
called it "an overall success"

and went with ripping apart
families instead.

So, for the final time: why ?

If they'd paid
the price for their crime

and there were better ways to ensure
they showed up for court,

why the everlasting fuck
did we really do this ?

I would argue that this is the logical
result of a general hard-right turn

toward demonizing immigrants
for political advantage,

in a way that some might call "racist"
and others would be wrong about.

Conservative immigration arguments
follow a pretty clear pattern.

Crossing the border is a crime,
anyone crossing it is a criminal.

Since all criminals are dangerous,

anyone crossing the border
is a dangerous criminal.

Immigrants are less likely to commit
crimes than people born here,

that has simply not stopped
Republicans from running

anti-immigrant, anti-caravan
political ads like these.

A woman gunned down by an
immigrant who should've been deported.

Illegal aliens invade America.

Democrats who stand in our way

will be complicit in every murder
committed by immigrants.

Mexican drug lords. MS-13 gang
members. Sex traffickers.

MS-13. Violent gang members.
People from the Middle East.

That's racist, they gave up any
pretense of specific fear-mongering

and simply said
"people from the Middle East".

Why not go all-in and start
naming groups you hate ?

The caravan also contains
Planned Parenthood,

gays who want wedding cakes,
black Santa

and a thirty-foot Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats will be complicit in every
person the giant Pelosi eats.

If you watch enough
of those ads, you realize

it's not they don't want immigrants
to come here because they're criminals,

it's that they're calling them criminals
because they don't want them here.

Watch this exchange that CNN had
with a New Jersey Trump supporter.

So you're worried
about immigration ?

Only coming in the illegal way.

Come in the legal way and
you are more than welcome.

It is legal to seek asylum.

I hope Trump changes that.

- You don't want any asylum seekers ?
- No.

Not often you see someone's cover
story fall apart with little pushing.

Are you three kids
wearing a trench coat ? No.

Do you want some ice cream ?

Yes, there are three of us
and we all like chocolate.

We're now so accustomed
to seeing immigrants as a threat

that politicians routinely talk
about them in the language of war.

Trump referred to the caravan
as an "invasion"

and sent troops to the border.

That kind of militaristic talk
can make people think

it is necessary to make the kind of
impossible choices made during a war,

which is how things
like family separation happen.

Just watch as Jessica Vaughn
tries to justify what we did.

A lot of Americans find it appalling.
What do you say to them ?

It's appalling
that we have to do it.

What do you think the consequences
are for these children

that have gone through, that
are still going through, this trauma ?

It's very possible that some
will have some lasting effects.

Right, but lasting damage
to children is a huge consequence.

You're separating them
from their parents,

not telling them you ate their candy
to get on Jimmy fucking Kimmel.

While we're on that topic:
no one should do that.

I'm really glad that some people do,
'cause it's extremely funny.

But nobody should.
But please keep doing it.

While she acknowledges that
what we're doing is appalling,

she says "we have to do it".

But the truth is, we don't
have to do any of it.

Even though the language of war
is being used, there is not a war.

The reason people keep
talking like there is one

is permission to make the choices
they want to be forced to make.

Family separation
cannot be one of them.

As she says: "these kids
will have some lasting effects".

While that's easy to say in the
context of abstract pediatric science,

the reality of it is heartbreaking.

Take Jenri, he's a six-year-old
from Honduras.

Separated from his mother
and reunited after a month apart.

As a documentary crew found,
their ordeal was far from over

and this is going
to be rough to watch.

... need to take care of you.
I think I need to leave, okay ?

I want to go to the jail.

- You want to go there ?
- You don't love me.

Who told you I don't love you ?

You're not my mom anymore.

Jenri ?

This separation was so long,
my son has changed so much.

With so much trauma.

"I don't want to be your son,
I'm not your son anymore", he said.

Yeah. We did that.

Not because we had to,
but because we chose to.

We may actually
be about to do it again.

Trump has publicly flirted with
bringing back family separation

and Homan supported that idea
during an interview with Fox & Friends

or, as it's known, "a face to face
meeting with the president."

Zero tolerance policy, that was
the right thing to do.

Regardless of how sad it is, no one
wants to see families separated,

but when they separated those
people that were prosecuted

the numbers went down
22 percent in two weeks.

If they would have stuck with that
there wouldn't be a caravan today.

Yeah, maybe, Tom !

If we surrounded the border
with randomly firing flamethrowers

and snakes trained to stand up
when anyone approached,

that could drive
the caravan away too,

but we don't do things like that,
it's not supposed to be who we are.

I say that fully and painfully aware

that if Trump hears that idea
coming out of a television,

he may well go: "someone write that
down, snakes and flamethrowers."

"I had it. That's my idea."

If the president wants to make Tuesday
election about him and immigration,

then fine,
let's make it about that.

Family separation is perhaps
the most emblematic moment

of his presidency so far:
it was cruel, sloppy, needless,

racist, and, ultimately, exactly
what we should have expected.

The biggest threat to our status
as "the greatest nation on earth"

is not a caravan
a thousand miles south of us,

it's whoever thinks that doing this
is an acceptable response.

And now this.

Halloween Part II:
Just The Traffic And Weather.

Yeezy in the house !
Yeah. Making America Great Again.

Let's get you your forecast,
show you what's happening.

On the east end, there is a
possibility for more showers.

These rain showers associated with
a cold front get in here Friday.

We do have precipitation south,
moving in parallel to the mountains.

You can see some precipitation
popping up across Eastern Oregon.

We're hanging in for the stormy
cycle in November.

Let's go to traffic with Debbie !

We're gonna start off in those
high forties to mid-fifties.

The rain chance keeps elevating.

Temperatures dipping
into the forties.

We have a wreck on the Belk Freeway
and that's the look of traffic.

Didn't think
that through all the way.

That's our show. Thanks for watching.
See you next week, goodnight.

Thank you, NBC Peacock.
Thank you, very nice.

I know.
It sounds terrible.

I can't imagine how difficult
it was for you.

There we go. It's all right.

It's all right. It's mainly over.