Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 6, Episode 30 - Census - full transcript

John explains why everyone's participation in the 2020 U.S. Census is of crucial importance for the country and how the Trump administration is trying to influence its results in their favor. Also, Chiitan and Chiijohn make their return.

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.

Let's dive in with the latest
developments in "Stupid Watergate II".

The sequel that could only get
worse if it added Jar Jar Binks.

He is scheduled to testify
before Congress on Thursday.

A dramatic week
in the House impeachment inquiry,

featuring damning public testimony
from three State Department veterans

and a closed-door interview with
another official, David Holmes,

about a phone call between Trump
and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland.

Holmes' opening statement
leaked to the press

and reporters went through it on-air,
live, learning eye-catching details.

Trying to go through the entire
details of this right now.

Trump clarified that Ambassador
Sondland was in Ukraine.

Ambassador Sondland replied yes,
he was in Ukraine

and went on to state that
President Zelensky "loves your ass".

It's true.
He apparently said that.

I am gonna quibble with your
choice of emphasis there.

I think he meant "loves your ass",
not, as you put it, "loves your ass".

I would understand
if it was the latter.

This guy is a smokeshow with dumps
like a truck and thighs like what.

I'm not saying he's a good president.
I'm saying he's thicc.

Holmes testified that Sondland said
Trump doesn't give a shit about Ukraine

and cares about stuff that benefits
him, like the Biden investigation.

It is difficult to defend all that.

Not to say that Republicans
have not been trying hard.

It might be worth breaking down
each of their defenses,

you're gonna be hearing a lot
of them in the next months.

The first technique is to insist
there is nothing to see here,

because nothing happened.

Attempted bribery
isn't in the Constitution.

Ukraine got its military aid,
it was 14 days delayed, big deal.

Ukraine never made any public
statement about any investigation.

So, wait, hold on.

Because the deal didn't go through,
it didn't matter.

A crime doesn't stop being
a crime if it doesn't work.

If you tried to blow up an airliner
and your vest doesn't go off,

you don't get to go:
"Well, no harm, no foul"

and watch "Detective Pikachu"
for the rest of the flight.

Ukraine only got its aid after
the House started asking questions.

The president was days away from
announcing investigations,

but canceled at the last minute,
after this story started breaking.

The "nothing to see here"
defense is pretty shaky.

Republicans' next tactic is to claim

the only evidence against Trump
is hearsay.

A point Jim Jordan
tried to drive home

by reading a section
of Sondland's testimony out loud.

Taylor recalls that Mr. Morrison told
Taylor that I told Mr. Morrison

that I conveyed this message
to Mr. Yermak on September 1st, 2019

in connection with Pence's visit to
Warsaw and a meeting with Zelensky.

Six people having four
conversations in one sentence

and this is where
you got your clear understanding.

Everything is harder to understand
when you rush through it

like you're listing side-effects
at the end of a Lunesta commercial.

It's the same way I tend to say a lot
of words fairly quickly

and jokes can slip by you
like they're Greta Thunberg

and you're guarding
Epstein's prison cell.

It just means I need to slow down
so everyone can realize

she didn't care who was on the flight
logs, she hated that he flew so often.

The point with the whole hearsay
argument, though,

is that multiple people
have gone on record

saying the president was pressuring
Zelensky for his own political gain,

including his own chief of staff,
Mick Mulvaney, who did so on camera.

The fact that there was
a quid pro quo is all hearsay,

in that you hear people say it
all the fucking time.

That is why they've come up
with a fallback defense:

"There was a quid pro quo,
but those are actually totally fine."

Here is a Republican county chair
giving that defense a spin.

Presidents make deals.
They kinda twist arms.

Not violently. I'll scratch your back
if you scratch mine.

You don't think he's opened
himself up for today,

he put himself in hot water, creating
the reasons for this hearing ?

No. I really don't.

It's like, do we want Trump
not to be Trump ?

Yes. So badly.
I want Trump not to be Trump

more than I want anything else
in the world right now.

I would take any kind
of "Freaky Friday" situation.

I would be happy if he switched
bodies with a raccoon.

Trump would too ! He wouldn't deal
with the impeachment inquiry

and he'd get to keep
his all-trash diet.

There is an obvious problem
with that argument.

Of course, presidents make deals.

But they are supposed to conduct
American foreign policy in a way

that benefits the country,
not themselves.

It's why Teddy Roosevelt's mantra was
"Speak softly and carry a big stick"

and not: "Speak softly and try to get
as many sticks as possible",

"for your personal stick collection."

Technique three is to pretend
that the details of this scandal

are too boring to care
about to make people disengage.

Watch Fox Business host Stuart Varney
try and sell that idea.

It was unutterably boring !
Did you watch any of this stuff ?

With Richard Nixon,
there was a break-in.

With Bill Clinton,
there was sex in the Oval Office.

With Trump, it's a call to Ukraine.
What the devil is that all about ?

I'm sorry this gigantic abuse of power
isn't sexy enough for you, Stuart.

If robbery and sex are what you want,
the Russia scandal had hacked emails

and Trump did pay $130 000
to a porn star.

Do either of those scandals
turn your crank, Stu ?

Pick the Trump scandal you prefer,
there's one for everyone !

And the final tactic here is to claim

that this story is too complicated
for people to understand.

Where there's no quid or pro,
you can't keep saying "quid pro quo".

I don't even know what that means.
I don't know what language is.

- It's Latin.
- Is it Latin ?

Yes, it is Latin.

The only thing there
more shocking than the stupidity,

is watching someone be accurately
corrected by Steve Doocy,

a man whose business card reads,
and this is true, "An Idiot".

This story isn't actually
that complicated at all.

The president seems to have withheld
foreign aid approved by Congress,

to get something
that would benefit him personally.

That is a bribe.
That is a shakedown.

White House officials knew
his pressure tactics were wrong,

because they hid information
about it in a top-secret server.

That isn't boring, it's not hearsay,
not standard practice for presidents

and it's really important that Trump
be held to account, here.

If he gets away this,
we are sending a message

that he can essentially
get away with anything.

And if that is the case, to paraphrase
an unqualified diplomat,

you better love Trump's ass,

'cause it might not be leaving
office any time soon.

And now this.

A Look Back At Al Roker Delivering
The Thanksgiving Kiss Of Death.

Americans lining the streets
and poking out of windows,

all cheering on the marchers,
including 6 000 Macy's employees.

A lot of them have to be fans of NBC's
new hot comedy series "Marry Me".

Cancelled 6 months later.

Temperature always hot
on NBC's new medical drama "Mercy".

Cancelled 6 months later.

I'm surrounded by happy actors,

the stars of the new NBC hit
comedy "Happy Family".


New NBC comedy
called "Committed".

Got a new show out, "Kath & Kim".

We remember
the original "Knight Rider".

Must see TV series "Constantine".


"Clash of the Choirs".

Right here on NBC.
Matt, Savannah, back to you.

Cancelled 6 days later.

Moving on. This is actually
our final show of the year,

so we take a look at something that
will be underway once we get back

and that is the census.

The only reason to open
the door for a stranger,

unless he tells you
he has candy in his van.

In that case, you gotta see what
he's offering ! What if he has fudge ?

The census is a longstanding
American tradition and, every decade,

the government rolls out eyecatching
TV ads to encourage participation,

like this one from 1980.

In 80 million mailboxes
across the USA.

The census is a comin',
to help us plan the way.

To show us where we're going
so that we can understand

What's needed for the future,
the future of our land.

Can we count on you ?

You can count on me.

Can we count on you ?

You can count on me !

Okay. That is a beautiful song.

It's no "Eat Shit, Bob,"
but frankly, what is ?

More importantly,
can we count on you, Mickey ?

It's 1980, you're in a tuxedo
in the middle of the day

and your pupils are the size
of personal pan pizzas.

We know what that means, Mick:
you've been baking with booger sugar.

Hawking the rawdilla. Riding
the white rail express to Blowmaha.

I'm trying to say: Mickey Mouse
has a really serious cocaine problem.

I'm just stating a fact.
A Disney fact.

The concept
of the census is very simple:

at the start of each decade government
does a comprehensive count

of every person
residing in the United States.

Not just citizens. Not just voters.
Every single person.

Only by knowing
how many people live where,

can communities plan to provide
things like roads,

schools and emergency services.

It's usually
conducted through mail-in forms,

supplemented by in-person interviews,

as this training film
for the 1940 Census shows.

What are the names of the other
persons living here, Mrs. McGee ?

There's me and my husband,
William H.,

and our two sons
John J. and William H. Jr.

We have to count babies, also.
Are there any babies here ?

No, not anymore.

What ?
What did you say ?

What kind of weird
fucking answer is that ?

I'm calling it right now:
that woman ate her baby.

That is a fact.
That is a Disney fact.

However hard counting
every single person seems,

it's actually much harder.

Some groups can be particularly
tricky to count, including children,

those living in remote areas, homeless
people, and of course, the Olsen twin.

They will tell you that there are two
of them, but one of them is lying.

To accomplish this, the government
opens 250 regional offices,

hires half a million temporary workers

and mails notifications
to over 140 million households.

Conducting the census is the largest,
most complicated peacetime operation

the government undertakes.

The 2020 Census is likely to be
more challenging than usual,

from budget shortfalls,
to active Republican meddling.

So tonight, let's talk about it.
And let's start

with what questions
are actually on the census.

A lot of people
don't know what they are,

and that very much includes
the current president himself.

They go through houses. They
ring doorbells, they talk to people.

How many toilets do they have ?
How many desks,

how many beds,
what's their roof made of ?

What are you talking about ?

No one would go to your house
and ask how many toilets you have,

because the answer should be
the same for everyone and that's four !

One for pees, one for poops,
one for guests, and one for groups.

You know,
the normal amount of toilets.

The census asks you
just a few basic questions:

your name, age, sex,
race or ethnicity,

how many people live in your home
and how they're related

and whether you rent or own,
that is essentially it.

Yet, some people still do not
want to engage with the census.

Partly because nobody likes
filling out surveys

and partly because when
the government asks questions,

people can get paranoid.

There is a subgenre of YouTube videos
from the last census

where libertarians filmed themselves
taunting census workers.

Like this one, filmed by a man
who insisted the census

was unconstitutional
and then added this to the mix.

- What is your first name ?
- I can't answer.

You don't want to give names ?

That's way too personal
of information...

It's nothing against you,
but you're a stranger.

I can show you news stories
of census workers

that have come back
and raped and killed people.

I didn't even know that.

Hold on there.
'Cause two key things there...

That census worker seems like a very
nice lady who has never killed anyone.

And two, you are being so obnoxious
I would honestly understand

if she was tempted
to break that streak.

Everyone knows: the census
is very much constitutional.

In fact,
it's not just in the Constitution,

it's the sixth fucking sentence,
think how significant that is.

Freedom of speech didn't even
make it in there at all.

They had to tack that on later

in the 18th century equivalent
of a Post-It note.

It is important that people
participate in a census.

Data is used to evenly distribute
political power across the states.

Seats in the House of Representatives
are divided up based on population.

After every census,
adjustments are made.

After the last one, Texas gained
four seats and Ohio lost two.

Some states are anxious
about being under-counted,

as this story
from Minnesota shows.

The eighth congressional seat we have
we've held on to it for some time.

We barely held on to it in 2010.
And in 2020,

it looks like we're
in the same situation again

where we're very close
to losing that seat.

That would be bad for them !
Losing a seat in Congress

is much like losing one
in musical chairs,

someone is gonna be
very disappointed.

Only this time, it's an entire state
and not just Aidan.

I'm sorry, Aidan,
but you've got a slow butt.

Better you learn to live
with it now.

Census data plays a crucial role
in directing government funding.

Hundreds of federal programs
use census data to distribute

$880 billion
to states and localities.

If your community's population
count is off by a tiny percentage,

it can have real consequences.

Take the city of Circle Pines,

In the last census,
they were just 82 people shy

of the 5 000-person threshold required
to qualify for state roads funds.

Local officials were frustrated,

because they believed
they'd had an undercount.

They do not want
that to happen again

and luckily, they have found
the hero that Circle Pines deserves.

I became Census Man

when I was elected to lead
the census initiative in our city,

which is
a vitally important initiative.

I love the fact that there
is a census-themed superhero.

His superpower seems to be reminding
people the census exists.

It's like if Batman
didn't fight crime,

he just wandered around and told
people interesting facts about bats.

Bats can eat up to 1 200
mosquitoes an hour !

enjoy your mugging, citizen !

We haven't even got into the fact
that businesses also use census data

to decide where
to add jobs or open stores.

It is vital to get the census right.
That is why it's so unfortunate

that the president seems to think
it's a waste of time and money.

They're spending $15 billion
or some ridiculous amount on a census.

I don't know why we can't do that
through the computers of the world,

that's the way you can do a census
and probably a lot more accurately.

Obviously there is a lot there,

but let me pick up on
"computers of the world".

I refuse to take computer advice
from Donald Trump.

Have you ever even seen him
use one ?

Can you even picture that happening
in your mind ?

Donald Trump, clicking a mouse ?
Typing with his fingers ? No way !

Here is a photo that he posted
during a Reddit AMA,

and he looks like he's scared
that if he touches the laptop,

it will burn him.

As for that whole cost issue,
Congress underfunded the bureau

by hundreds of millions
of dollars for years,

and critical preparations
for this census needed to be made.

That is not good, because next
year, for the first time ever,

the bureau will be asking most
people to answer the census online.

Which could make
counting everyone easier,

provided the government's
website works properly.

You do not want another
Healthcare-dot-gov on your hands,

a website whose launch was so flawed
that, you may well recall,

only six people were able to use it
to sign up for health insurance

on its first day.

Fun fact: those six people ?
The cast of "Friends" !

Could they be any luckier ?

To avoid problems, typically,

the bureau does multiple full-scale
test runs in different locations

to make sure that everything
is not only working,

but that it will work in
a variety of difficult-to-count areas.

It had planned to do three
test runs this time,

in an urban setting, a rural setting
and on tribal lands.

Thanks to budget constraints,
it ended up only doing one,

in Providence County, where they
didn't even have a marketing budget.

One library tried to help there,
by offering people coupons

for $5 off late fees if they filled in
a census on a tablet computer there.

But the results were underwhelming.

How long has this been up,
about, in the library ?

A couple weeks, I guess.

How many people
came through to, to use it ?

A lot of people have looked at it.

So far we've had one
that I can vouch for.

One person's come in and done it.
The coupon was an incentive on that.

I actually have a confession here:
I am that man.

I had $233 000 in late fees
in Providence, Rhode Island.

Now I have $232 995.
And guess what ?

I'm still not returning the copy of
"Eat, Pray, Love" I borrowed in 2004.

I just committed the perfect crime.
Admitting it on camera,

probably isn't ideal,
but no fucking regrets.

The 2020 Census was always
going to be a big challenge.

Instead of being able to focus
their attention on these issues,

the bureau has had to expend time
and energy dealing with this shit.

Overnight the Trump
administration announced a move

that could impact the balance
of power for years to come.

The 2020 Census will ask about
citizenship for the first time in decades.

Wilbur Ross
announcing the decision

following a request
by the Justice Department.

Last year, Wilbur Ross,
who is in charge of the census

and what you would get if you put Elmer
Fudd in the oven at 425 for 90 minutes,

he announced a citizenship question
would be added to the census.

The bureau's chief scientist said would
harm the quality of the census count.

Which makes sense, doesn't it ?

If you have the government
asking people if they are citizens,

many may choose not to respond
out of fear the information

could be used against them
or people in their household.

Despite the fact it is against the law
for the bureau to disclose

any private information that
identifies an individual to anyone,

not the IRS, not ICE,
not anyone.

Personal census information
is kept confidential for 72 years,

by which point, let's face it,
we will all be dead.

Probably by that census worker's
hand, once she gets a taste for blood.

At the time, Wilbur Ross claimed
it was the Justice Department

who had requested that question
to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Which seemed like bullshit,
because voting rights has never seemed

exactly like a top priority
for this administration.

It later emerged that it was Ross
who had pressured the DOJ

to request
the question from him.

The reason why involves this guy,

a Republican redistricting strategist
named Thomas Hofeller.

Here he is delivering
a very funny joke very well.

is like an election in reverse,

it's a great event.

Usually, the voters
get to pick the politicians.

In redistricting,
the politicians get to pick the voters.

Damn. You nailed it, Tommy.

What he is saying
there is really bad.

He is just reciting a major systemic
problem with the cadence of a joke.

Which was also, incidentally,
the original title for this program.

That man died last year.
His death ended up exposing

Wilbur Ross' true reasons for asking
the citizenship question.

When Hofeller's estranged daughter
began to go through his things,

she found something
very surprising.

His daughter finds these zip drives
and on the zip drive

is this trench of information
that essentially shows

that he had engineered this as a plan
to suppress minority votes.

It's true: his daughter found
documents on the hard drive

that laid out Republicans' strategy
to suppress minorities' voting power

and to use the Voting Rights Act
as a cover.

Which is appalling,
but one of the least horrifying things

you could find on a hard drive
belonging to your dead father.

On that point, if I ever die

and anyone finds mysterious
hard drives belonging to me,

assume they contain a shady
gerrymandering scheme I'm involved in.

Don't even click,
just throw it straight out.

It's definitely
a gerrymandering scheme

and not my collection
of hamsters in tiny Speedos.

If it were that, there would be
nothing wrong with it

because it's not technically illegal,
I checked,

but that doesn't matter anyway
because it's not my collection,

it's talking points
about my gerrymandering scheme.

I'm glad we all got that clear.
I'll see you later.

Hofeller had proposed the citizenship
question so he could make it easier

for Republicans
to hold onto power.

He and the Trump administration were
in close contact about the whole thing.

The scheme
was so impossible to justify,

three courts ruled against it,
and finally the administration lost

in front of the Supreme Court
and the question was dropped.

The citizenship question
will not be on the census next year.

It will not be on the census.

Here's the problem though,

those who work with immigrant
communities say the damage

might unfortunately already be done.

The anxiety and fear among
Chicago's Latino families remains

despite Trump's decision to back off
on the citizenship question.

The reluctancy is there

because the environment
has been already created to deter them.

Exactly. They've now created
an environment of fear.

People will still be looking
over their shoulder, terrified.

As that woman should
probably be

because Susan Skellington
is right behind her,

waiting to pounce.

Look out !
It's Susan.

There is a lot working
against this census.

Experts are worried an undercount
next year is inevitable,

the only question is by how much
and the fear is it could be millions.

So, what can we do ?
It's actually relatively simple:

all of us living in America now
need to fill out the census next year.

You've seen a lot of people trying
to persuade you to do that tonight,

from a superhero without superpowers,
to an aspiring serial killer,

to a coked-up mouse.

If you don't want to participate
in the census for them,

or for yourself,
or for your community,

I'll give you one more
good reason to participate.

And that is that it would
probably really irritate this guy.

His administration already thinks
that certain people don't count.

What better way to get back at him,
than to make sure that you do

and make the census count you.

Just to make him extra mad,
why not include a note

telling him
how many toilets you have ?

Which, remember, should be four,
the normal amount. Disney fact.

And now, this.

Another Installment Of Coming Up
On "Inside Edition" !

Do not mess with this woman.
She's 6'1 and ex-military.

Plus, no more bananas ?
And danger zone...

The stairs in your own home.
Plus, the Botox Bandit !

Then, jet ski investigation.
And burger mystery.

You can actually drive 50 feet with
your eyes closed when you sneeze.

Invasion of the goats !
Plus... Grumpy old man.

Why does this keep happening ?

What are you doing, Mister ?

There's a bear in my closet !
And gator in the kitchen !

What the heck is that thing ?
Hitchhiking snake !

Then, yep ! He's gay.

Moving on.
Look, finally tonight, before we go,

we just wanted to say thank you
for watching this show this year.

We have had a lot of fun.
We robocalled the FCC,

baked the world's largest marble cake
to spite the leader of Turkmenistan,

we climbed a fake Mount Everest

to show why climbing
the real one is a bad idea

and we did an elaborate musical
to tell a coal tycoon to eat shit.

We haven't heard from Bob Murray.
But I'm sure he loved it.

We also got obsessed with
a Japanese mascot called Chiitan.

Chiitan was the hyper-violent
unofficial otter for the city of Susaki

and also the star
of videos like this one.

That's excellent.

After Susaki broke ties with Chiitan,
their official mascot, Shinjo-kun,

was left alone, and look,
that broke our hearts.

We did something
uncharacteristically sweet for us,

and we created our own
replacement mascot, Chiijohn,

a nearsighted otter.

We sent him to Japan
to find Shinjo-kun.

He came on a little strong at first,
but they became great friends

and have been living
in Susaki together ever since.

The whole saga was heartwarming,
wholesome, and the exact opposite

of what it feels like
being alive right now.

I've been thinking
a lot about these two lately,

because next year, let's face it,
it is going to be unpleasant.

It is a presidential election year,

so things are gonna get even more
toxic than they already are.

I've found myself often craving

for these two's particular brand
of unmitigated joy.

I tried to get in touch with them.
Here's what happened.


It had been a rough year
and Hejohn was very sad.

He missed his friends
who lived very far away,

so he decided to write them a letter.

He wound up and threw it
as far as he could. Perfect.

On a distant shore, Chiijohn
and Shinjo-kun sat by the river.

The tide was about to change.

- "Dear Friends".
- The letter said.

I wanted to call you, but I have AT&T
so this seemed a more reliable option.

It's been an exhausting year
and next year is looking worse.

I wish we could see each other.

Reading the letter broke their
otter hearts, it was so sad.

Hejohn had AT&T.
Suddenly, Chiijohn had an idea.

Chiijohn and Shinjo-kun packed
all they'd need for a long journey

and borrowed a snack, or two.

On the way to the airport they
said goodbye to all the local fish.

"We're dead," replied
the local fish. "But good luck."

Chiijohn and Shinjo-kun were
so excited for their 13-hour flight,

although the same
could not be said of everyone.

Stuffed between two giant otters,
yet again.

At last, America !

Right away,
they had trouble fitting in.

They took what they assumed
was the subway.

Soon they were in the heart
of New York, America's Susaki.

But no one there seemed
to recognize Hejohn.

"Are you sure he has a television
show ?" Asks Shinjo-kun.

They found a club for comedy.
Maybe Hejohn was a member.

"That man looks just like him,
it must be his adult son !"

Emboldened by his two drinks,
Chiijohn tried comedy himself.

Chiijohn killed.
Local fish really do be like that.

Someone heard they had been looking
for TV's best late-night host

and told them where to find him.

They had come to the right place,

but this wasn't Hejohn,
it couldn't be.

This man was funny,
charming and handsome.

"Very handsome",
said Shinjo-kun.

Hejohn couldn't be here
because Hejohn was sad.

And how could anyone be sad
at a place like NBC ?

"Come on", Chiijohn said.
"Hejohn needs us."

But they started to worry
that they would never find him.

They sat down a moment to rest and
a local artist captured their sadness.

Chiijohn and Shinjo-kun
didn't recognize themselves.

Then again, whoever really does
in the eyes of others ?

Chiijohn and Shinjo-kun had
reached the end of the city.

There was nowhere left to look.
Their hope dwindled with the daylight.

The tide hadn't changed
the way they'd wished.

But that's the funny
thing about tides,

they might not change when you want
them to, but they never stay the same.

Hejohn had been trying
to see Susaki.

In the end,
it was Susaki who saw him.

It was a good surprise.

Hejohn hadn't realized
surprises could be good anymore.

For the first time in a long time,
Hejohn dared to hope.

"Soon, it will be a new day",
Hejohn said.

"Where we're from", Chiijohn replied,
"it already is".

That's our show,
thanks for watching this year.

We'll see you next February,
good night !

How's it going ?

Shinjo-kun, you really like Seth ?
You really like him ? He's very good.