Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 6, Episode 14 - Equal Rights Amendment - full transcript

[HBO] HD. Main story: A look at the Equal Rights Amendment; plus, candidates vying to be the UK's next prime minister.

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

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

A quick recap of the week.

We begin with the United Kingdom:
America's deadbeat dad.

The UK weathered
a visit from Donald Trump,

who met with the queen, wearing
the world's most ill fitting tuxedo

and sat down for an interview
with Piers Morgan,

in which he was given
a Winston Churchill hat.

- Let me try this on.
- Please. That'd be great.

- It's a little big.
- We can get that... That's fantastic.

- Let me see how that looks.
- So, Winston Trump.

Winston looked
much better in it.

I agree with Trump on that one,
he does look like shit in that hat.

Anyone looks like an asshole
when wearing a Churchill hat.

Even Churchill kind of looked
like an asshole

when wearing a Churchill hat.

Trump still looks like
an asshole without the hat.

Trump was in the UK at
a very dramatic time.

Two weeks ago, Theresa May
announced her resignation,

after failing to negotiate
a Brexit deal,

a decision to which I think
the citizens of Gogglebox,

the magnificent show
where ordinary Britons watch TV,

had the proper response.

I will leave the job that it has been
the honor of my life to hold.

Wobbly voice.

- I feel really sorry for her.
- Why ?

Sorry ? She fucked it up.

She had three years to get it right
and got it gloriously wrong.

That is the right sentiment.
I don't know if I would describe

Theresa May's job on Brexit
as "gloriously wrong".

"Gloriously wrong" is how I would
describe this fireworks show in 2012,

when organizers accidentally set
off all 45 minutes worth of fireworks

at the same time,
take a look.

Glorious. Wrong.
Gloriously wrong.

May's last day as conservative
leader was actually Friday,

but she's staying on
until her successor is chosen

through a ridiculous process,
there will be no general election.

The new leader will be chosen
by May's party, the conservatives.

The next prime minister will be chosen
by 124 000 paid members of the party,

most of whom are over 55
and from the top social class.

A small group of out-of-touch
old people is going to decide

the future of the entire country.

It's like if Great Britain
had its own Florida.

And nobody wants that.
Who are the contenders here ?

Currently and appallingly, the leading
candidate is Boris Johnson,

who answers the question:

"What would Kevin McCallister
have looked like,"

"if his parents
never came home ?"

Johnson is widely known for a few
reasons, none of them good.

Before he helped sell Brexit
with a series of lies,

he served
as the mayor of London,

where he embarrassed himself
getting stuck on a zip line

and, in Japan, playing rugby
with children and doing this.

There may be no more
apt metaphor for modern-day Britain

than an overconfident old man
steamrolling a young person.

Johnson doesn't just seem like
a fucking moron, he is a fucking moron.

During his time as foreign secretary,
officials characterized him

as woefully underprepared,
making crucial mistakes and being,

and here I'm quoting directly,
a "fucking moron".

Unfortunately for Britain,
Johnson's opponents are also terrible.

One of his main competitors
is this man, Michael Gove,

environment secretary
and self-professed rap fan.

When a student asked him to give
a sample of his favorite rap music,

his answer wasn't great.

The first rap I heard
was actually called a vanilla rap,

which was the Wham! rap,
Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael.

Take a look at me,
I've got street credibility.

I have a good time
With the boys I meet down on the line.


Michael Gove can't rap. You could
tell that before he started doing it.

It's just one of many things you
can tell simply by looking at him:

he can't rap, he can't dance,
he likes Wham!, he wears briefs,

he uses a knife
and fork when eating pizza

and he'd be
a terrible prime minister.

A scandal involving cocaine could
torpedo his chances to topple Johnson.

That leaves it up to one of these
other contenders.

The problem is
they're all very bad.

The most reasonable among them
in this terrible bunch is Rory Stewart,

who's argued against a hard,
no-deal Brexit.

Stewart is far from
an ideal candidate himself.

He is very active online, posting
truly F-minus selfies like this.

That is a face whose sheer Britishness
is perhaps best-described

as "metastasized".

Stewart has no shot at winning,
which may be why he's taken

to wandering around the country
equipped with two things:

an iPhone and the desire
to the bicker with strangers.

I'm in Borough Market, talking
about issues beyond Brexit,

and if you want to come and have
a conversation in the next hours,

come and find me here.

Hello, I'm now in Woking.

Looking forward to meeting people
in the town square.

I'm in Barking, continuing
the conversation in Borough Market.

Come and meet me anytime,
Lewisham Market, bye.

Sorry to break this to you,

but no one wants to go on a scavenger
hunt through random towns in England

where the prize is being bored
by someone who looks like

Eddie Redmayne fucked Willem Dafoe
in a Wallace and Gromit cartoon.

Stewart doesn't just invite
people on his walks,

he also posts about the aftermath,
including this odd report.

I'm in Barking,
which voted 62 percent leave,

and what I've picked up is, that this
isn't a nation divided into two camps.

People want to talk about
different issues,

from air quality to somebody
who witnessed a mugging in the street.

Wait. First of all: witnessing
a mugging isn't an "issue".

It's a direct request
to please contact the police.

It seems impossible that a mugger
would be on the same street

as Rory Stewart, this man,
and choose to mug someone else.

As cringe-inducing as Stewart can be,
I will say this for him:

unlike Boris Johnson,
he's ruled out a no-deal Brexit

and he's never steamrolled a child
in a meaningless sporting contest.

Or, so we thought. Because
according to a New Yorker profile,

when he was in college, Rory was
selected by Prince Charles

to tutor princes William and Harry
in the summer of 1993.

Why am I bringing this up ?
A documentary crew was there

and footage shows Stewart playing
soccer with Prince Harry and others

and, I quote: "Stewart can be seen
tackling a boy half his size."

That is intriguing.
Now, would you like to see that ?

Yes, we found it !
Ignore the voiceover of Prince Charles,

just watch
what happens onscreen !

The prince and his children, often come
here with friends of the family.

Do you like
being with the children ?

Of course, I do. I really don't know
whether they like being with me.

My God ! That is Prince William
that Rory Stewart viciously attacked !

We were pleased with ourselves
for finding that,

until we started to wonder:
that doesn't look like Rory Stewart.

He's blond there. Did he have
lighter hair when he was younger ?

It's possible. Or, is that
not actually Rory Stewart ?

This is where our week got weird.
Because if it wasn't Rory,

then why, for nine years,
did he not correct the record ?

We thought
maybe we found the wrong fall.

We looked elsewhere in the tape

and there's two more
moments of boy-violence.

There is this moment,
but that's a child slipping.

No "forceful tackle" on display
there, so that can't be it.

There's a second,
forceful incident,

where it's Prince Harry on
the receiving end of a heavy tackle.

Go on, Harry.

That is the same somewhat-too-blond
potential Rory that we saw before,

with a blue-sweatered
potential Rory also in the fray.

Bluesweatered boy,
that's the real Rory, right ?

He looks too young to be in college,
doesn't he ? So, it can't be him.

We noticed a third potential
Rory, right here. Who's that ?

He certainly seems the most Rory-ish,

in that he seems to be walking
randomly and nobody wants him there.

That's on brand.
But there's more evidence

because the New Yorker
described him back then

as "not fully adult, with
a long neck and a big head."

That squares with the bobble-headed,
pencil-necked young twerp here.

That's him, isn't it ?
Except, the problem is,

he's not implicated tackling
anywhere in this video.

Quite the opposite !
A moment later,

we see him very kindly walking
Prince Harry off the field.

We felt confident of two things:
one, this was Rory Stewart.

And two, he'd been falsely
accused of boy-tackling.


Then we watched the tape
one more time

and there's a small moment,
when potential Rory Three

is walking Harry off the field.

The game is about to re-start,
listen closely to what is shouted.

All right, Rory.

You all heard that. Someone
clearly shouted, "All right, Rory."

You assume that's addressed
to the person holding the ball.

"All right, Rory,
let play continue."

But the person holding the ball is
the too-blond potential Rory.

So, it was him ! Rory Stewart did
demolish the heir to the throne !

At this point, our staff was divided
and we obsessed over this tape

like it was the fucking
Zapruder film.

Some of us here subscribed to
the "Second Rory theory".

It's complicated, and we don't
have time to get into everything,

but basically:
we think there's a second Rory.

On our umpteenth viewing of this
tape, we noticed something new:

we'd all been looking
at the boy with the ball.

Watch what happens
when non-violent potential Rory Three

is walking Harry off the field.

Watch how he reacts to that
shout of: "All right, Rory."

I'm gonna zoom in and play this
at half-speed so you can see.

All right, Rory.

He turned around
like the fucking Rory he is !

Watch him !
Back and to the left !

We got you so good !
That is the real Rory !

He didn't tackle anyone !
He is innocent of boy-bashing !

And yet, he's let this allegation
hang over him for nine years !

Why ? This brings us back to the battle
to become prime minister of Britain.

Rory knows the key qualification
to be British prime minister

is actually to be very weird
around children.

They've all done it. Here's
Theresa May, scowling at a child.

Here's Gordon Brown,
making a little girl cry.

And here's David Cameron,

anesthetizing a schoolgirl
with his personality.

We've already seen Boris and
Wham!'s biggest fan, Michael Gove,

cleared this bar.

Could it be that Rory Stewart
was happy to let people think

he was terrible around children,
when, in fact,

his behavior
is disqualifyingly normal ?

The British people deserve answers.
Rory Stewart, for some reason,

likes advertising and asking
people to come question him.

To the people of Britain I say this:

the next time he pops up
in Basingstoke farmer's market,

requesting a debate,
it is your right, your patriotic duty,

to turn up and ask him:
"Which fucking Rory are you ?"

Tall blond Rory ?
Young blue-sweatered Rory ?

Or the Rory too cowardly
to kick Prince Harry in the head ?

Consider this a Rory election.
It's like a Tory election,

only less stupid, because
at least in this one,

there is zero chance of
Boris Johnson winning.

And now this.

Gordon Ramsay
Wants to Fuck His Food.

The more effort, passion
and love you show the ham now,

the results are ten fold.

Take handfuls of salt
and just sort of rub it in.

Bend it over and in all those cracks.
A nice big dollop in the middle.

Don't be tight with your cream.
Hold it and put your fingers on there.

Three finger rule: one finger
in front, two behind,

pinky holding it down,
thumb holding nice and flat.

I just want to dive in there.
Long strokes with a knife.

Take your time.
Turn it 180.



God. Gently.

This is the bit you've
been waiting for.

My God ! I'm in Heaven !

Moving on. Our main story
tonight concerns women.

Judging from bathroom signs,
men who've swallowed a trapezoid.

It's been a rough few years
in America for women,

from abortion bans, to the confirmation
of a Supreme Court justice

with resting beer face
to the election of a President

who thinks
of their genitals as handles.

To balance it all out,
women did also get this.

You are not seeing things.
McDonald's iconic golden arches

have been flipped upside down
and turned into a "W" for "women".

Nice going, WcDonald's.
Why did you stop there ?

The golden arches are versatile.
Flip them upside down for "women",

turn them on their side for "eunuchs",
and turn them on their other side

into a "3" for the actual number
of rats you need to make one McRib.

I'm not saying that rats
are in the McRib.

I'm saying they make them.
It's disgusting but in a different way.

This week saw
a historic milestone.

Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary
of Congress passing 19th Amendment,

which enshrined in the
constitution women's right to vote.

A long time, and when you think
about it, not nearly long enough.

In an ideal world,
women would've been guaranteed

the right to vote for a lot longer than
Kirk Douglas has been breathing.

I want to focus on a milestone
for gender equality

that we haven't achieved yet:
the Equal Rights Amendment.

It's been
under consideration for a while.

The struggle for an Equal Rights
Amendment traces back to 1923,

when feminist Alice Paul wrote
the words that became E.R.A.

Equality of rights under the law
shall not be denied or abridged

by the US or any state
on account of sex.

That's it. The core of the Equal Rights
Amendment is just 24 words long.

The idea behind it is broadly popular.
According to advocates,

80 percent of us think
it's already in the Constitution.

It's one of those things so obvious,
you assume we already have it.

Like when you see baking
soda at the store.

I don't need to buy baking soda.
I have baking soda. It's a staple.

And then you get home, baking a cake
and you reach in the cupboard,

and you realize: "Fuck, women still
aren't guaranteed equal rights."

There was a time when the E.R.A.
had a lot of momentum,

it sailed through Congress in 1972,
84 senators voting for it,

despite a few
of their colleagues' objections.

Male opponents
called it the "Unisex Amendment".

They said it would destroy traditional
man-woman relationships.

The Senate wasn't swayed and
tonight, after a 49-year struggle,

an amendment appears on the way
proclaiming once and for all

that women have all the same
rights as that other sex.

Wait, "that other sex."
That sounds like what you say

when you've somehow
forgotten the word "men".

Women have the same rights as, what
are they called ? Swollen boys ?

Two-legged horses with jobs ?
Shaved bears who fart ?

Someone help me here, please !

Having passed the House
and the Senate,

the only remaining obstacle
was for 38 states to ratify it.

That is where the holdup has been,
we never crossed that threshold.

We are tantalizingly close. 37 states
have ratified it over the years.

We're just one away. If you live in
one of the states that's holding out,

that can be pretty dispiriting,
as these Florida residents found out.

- Florida is one of the holdouts.
- I'm so tired of living here.

Yeah, of course you are.

Of course you're tired
of living in Florida.

Nothing makes sense there.
The laws, the alligators, the weather.

Everyone in that clip is dressed
for an entirely different season.

Mid-May. Late October.
And September 13th, 1992.

We've never been closer to the E.R.A.
being enshrined in our Constitution.

Six weeks ago, there were even
hearings in Congress on this subject.

It might be a good time to ask why's
it taken so long to pass the E.R.A ?

What would it mean if we did ?
How can we finally get it done ?

Let's start from the beginning.
When Congress passed the E.R.A.,

many saw it as part of an overall
movement toward justice,

as one supporter expressed,
albeit in less than ideal terms.

This is equal rights
for all people of every sex,

every color, every race.

I don't care
if they're homos or what.

That speech was a rollercoaster.
So inspirational,

only to fall
at the last second there.

Like Martin Luther King arguing

children should be judged
not by the color of their skin,

but by the content of their character,
even the dirty Catholics.

Dr. King. You really
could've done without that last bit.

The E.R.A. was passed with a deadline
of 1979 to get the 38 states needed.

Initially seemed
it was gonna be no problem.

It was endorsed
by Democrats and Republicans,

including President Nixon,
and 30 states had ratified it.

Hawaii did so just 32 minutes after
Congress approved it.

That's unbelievably fast,
especially considering that,

according to

it can take Hawaiians
12 hours just to roast a pig,

which is, in and of itself,

I can roast a pig
in just four seconds. I'll show you !

Pig. Your mom fucks pigs. Put an apple
in your mouth, you've been roasted !

I've roasted you, you stupid pig.

All that momentum
came to a crushing halt.

Which many historians credit to
one woman: Phyllis Schlafly.

If you've never heard of her,

She founded a group
called "Stop E.R.A."

and she was all over
the media in the 70s,

spreading fear about the E.R.A.

Some of what she argued it
would do,

like lead to women being included
in the military draft, was possible.

But a lot was bullshit,

like claiming it would outlaw
sex segregated bathrooms.

There was also this nonsense.

Under our system in case
of a break up of marriage,

the mother gets her children,
in most cases.

Who wants to trade that in
for a so-called "equality",

whereby each parent
gets one child ?

I don't think the Equal Rights
Amendment says that each...

In case of a divorce, each
parent gets one child.

You've got to interpret things

That's right. If one of the children's
better than the other one,

the Amendment says you have
to cut off a little bit of the first one

and give it to the second one,
everything's got to be equal.

So, you've got to give your son
his sister's big toe.

The E.R.A. says that.
That is not what equal rights means.

It's not that everything has to end up
exactly equal, it's just the law

cannot disadvantage you
based on gender.

That didn't matter to Schlafly,
a pre-internet internet troll,

gleefully greeting
audiences with lines like this.

I would like to thank my husband
Fred for letting me come today.

I love to say that, because
it irritates the women's libbers

more than anything that I say.

That "thank you" to Fred is unnecessary
for two reasons:

one, wives are not property
of their husbands.

And two, I'm not sure how
big a sacrifice it was for Fred

to spend a few hours not hanging
out with Phyllis Schlafly.

If I had to guess, Fred was okay
with Phyllis getting out of the house.

The night, even !
I mean, where is this rally ?

If it's more than 10 minutes away,
might make sense to stay over.

If it's any later in the week than,
say, Wednesday, at that point,

just stay the weekend, Phyllis.

No thank you necessary,
don't even mention it,

or anything else,
to Fred ever again.

Schlafly became a major player
in the rise of the religious right,

rallying conservatives to oppose E.R.A.

and one of the most galvanizing
tent poles of their argument

was that the E.R.A.
would expand access to abortion.

When three First Ladies came together
at a pro-E.R.A. women's conference,

Schlafly organized a protest rally,

featuring this ferocious speech from
a Republican congressman.

And the greatest tragedy of all

was to see three former First Ladies
of this nation approving

of sexual perversion and the murder
of young people in mothers' wombs.

What a disgrace !

Okay, so that was a lot.

First: the E.R.A. doesn't say anything
about abortion, or other policy.

All it says is that men and women
have to be treated equally.

If your view on abortion requires
that men and women

not be explicitly equal, you may want
to rethink your view on abortion.

If someone stood up at a city
council meeting:

"This law against animal
torture would make it impossible"

"to run my pizza parlor !"

Then holy shit, their pizza parlor
never should have existed.

Thanks to arguments like those,
the E.R.A. had become so toxic

that by the 1979 deadline,
only 35 states had ratified it.

Even though Congress extended
the deadline by three years,

not a single
additional state signed on.

I'm not saying that there are not laws
on the books outlawing discrimination.

If you're then wondering:

"If that's the case, why do
we still need the E.R.A. ?"

It's 'cause laws can be rolled back
by a simple act of Congress

and policy guidelines can go away
based on who's in charge.

Congress recently let the Violence
Against Women Act expire.

The Trump administration's rescinded
20 policy guidelines

on Title IX antidiscrimination laws.

A constitutional amendment
like the E.R.A. is more stable,

are safe from Donald Trump.

Unlike Melania's hopes and dreams
and any American flag he gets close to.

Constitutional amendments are
something he can not easily ruin.

Some would argue that women
have protection under the Constitution,

specifically the 14th Amendment,
which guarantees individuals

equal protections under the law.

Since the 1970s, the Supreme Court
has interpreted that

to cover gender discrimination.

But not everyone agrees that it
should be interpreted that way.

One of those people,
former Justice Antonin Scalia,

said the 14th Amendment does not
cover discrimination by gender at all.

Constitution does not require sexual
discrimination on the basis of sex.

The only issue is whether
it prohibits it. It doesn't.

Nobody ever voted for that.

He's right, of course.
If women wanted that amendment

to cover gender discrimination,
they should've voted for it in 1868.

Why didn't they do that ?
Silly ladies.

Scalia was a die-hard originalist.
And as insane as I personally find

his philosophy of ruling on cases
by jumping inside the long-dead brains

of history's various
misogynists and racists,

there are a lot of people
who think that way.

Trump has promised to put
more of them on the bench,

saying he wants justices "very much
in the mold of Justice Scalia."

Which I can only hope
means dead.

I worry might mean interpreting
the Constitution

without protections for gender.

And that is where
the E.R.A. would come in.

You can't interpret it as not
addressing gender discrimination,

because that's all it addresses.

Our final question: how can we finally,
after all these years,

make the E.R.A.
part of our Constitution ?

Because it is very much possible.
Yes, the deadline passed in 1982.

Legal scholars believe Congress
could change the deadline again

or eliminate it entirely.

Bills to do that have been introduced
in both the House and the Senate

just this year,
with bipartisan co-sponsors.

States have been moving
the E.R.A. forward,

with Nevada and Illinois both
ratifying it in the last years.

For Senator Pat Spearman, who was
behind Nevada's ratification push,

the reasons for doing so
were all too clear.

People who were born in privilege
always debate

whether or not those of us
who were not deserve equality.

What we are talking about here

is the fact that equality
is not debatable.

We are born with it. The only
thing we're asking in the E.R.A.

is to acknowledge the fact
that women are born equal to men.

She's right.
None of this is that complicated.

Equality for women should be
a basic principle of our society.

If you think it already is, great,
all the more reason to write it down.

If you think it isn't, then we
badly need the E.R.A.

I'm not saying
that it will fix everything.

It focuses on discrimination by
the government, not the private sector.

For an issue
like closing the wage gap,

most women would have to
continue to rely on other legislation

and stealing
from male coworkers.

Hashtag #feminism,
Hashtag #ladyfingers.

The E.R.A. could, at the very least,

be a safeguard against things
sliding further backwards.

And we are just one state away,
giving these 13 states

a huge opportunity
to genuinely make history.

One Arizona legislator is inspired
by what this could mean.

If we do this, this goes down
in the history books.

Arizona goes down
in the history books.

Exactly, she's right. Arizona could go
down in the history books.

That just doesn't happen much.
The most famous part of Arizona

is the Grand Canyon,
the part of Arizona where

there's notably less of Arizona.

Anywhere else there'd be
more Arizona there,

but instead there's just
this sudden lack of Arizona

and it's everyone's favorite part.

These 13 states have a huge chance to
change how history views them forever.

So, the only real question here is:

which one of you wants
to seize that chance ?

Which state is gonna put

this amendment over the top and write
themselves into the history books ?

Will it be Arizona ?
Or Georgia ?

Or could it be you, Oklahoma ?
You could be known for something

other than tornados and musicals
about how great morning is.

Which it isn't, it never is. It's just
like night but unpleasantly brighter.

Could it be one of the Carolinas ?
Could it be you, Utah ?

Or you, Missouri ? You could
be famous for making history,

rather than having a state flag that's
2 bears fucking a Christmas ornament.

Or could it be you, Florida ?
Or Mississippi, maybe you could...

Holy shit, Mississippi !
I always forget that's on your flag.

The fuck, Mississippi ?
The actual fuck is that ?

You could pass the E.R.A., but it would
be extremely out of character.

Louisiana ? It could be you !
Arkansas ? It could be you !

Alabama ?
It definitely won't be you.

But Virginia ?
It really could be you.

Plus, you are the birthplace
of Chris Brown, Rick Santorum

and Pat Robertson, so frankly, you
fucking owe America this.

Any one of these 13 states has
an opportunity to bring to an end

a journey that's taken this country
100 years to make.

It's not every day
you get a chance like this

and somebody please do it
before Florida,

I do not want to give them
credit for this.

That's our show. Thanks for watching.
See you next week ! Good night !

Roasted !