The ‘Last Week Tonight’ host takes issue with President Biden calling the shootings “un-American”: “Not only are attacks against Asians very much American, so is denying that they’re racist.”
John Oliver admonished President Biden for saying last week that the recent mass shootings in Atlanta are “un-American” on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight.
Last week, authorities charged a 21-year-old man, Robert Aaron, with eight counts of murder for the slayings, four of which occurred at a massage parlor in Cherokee County. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
Oliver showed a clip of Biden’s remarks last week condemning the attacks, which he called “vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who’ve been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.” Biden added: “It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop.”
While Oliver agreed with that sentiment, he took issue with the use of the term “un-American.”
Said Oliver: “I am really glad that he condemned hate crimes against Asians there but to say they are un-American — I would love to visit the nation that exists in Joe Biden’s head. Because it’s a place where racism is [using air quotes] ‘not who we are’ and racist attacks against Asians are somehow ‘un-American’ despite the fact that, far be it for me to explain this to someone who seem like he’s lived through most of American history, anti-Asian racism has long been a fact of American life.”
He cited various examples, from “the treatment of Chinese railroad workers in the 1800s” to the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II to the 1982 murder of Chinese-American Vincent Chin by two white auto workers who blamed him for losing their jobs and used racial slurs during the attacks.
Said Oliver: “Not only are attacks against Asians very much American, so is denying that they’re racist. It’s so American, in fact, that the National Anthem should begin, ‘Oh say can you, it’s not about race?'”
Oliver also went after Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker, who was criticized for saying during a news conference Wednesday that the 21-year-old suspect had had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.”
“Absolutely-fucking-not. You do get this is a press conference about a mass murderer, right? You don’t get to miniziae what happened like that,” Oliver said.
Showing a photo of the cover of the classic children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, Oliver said: “Alexander had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and what he did was shrug it the fuck off and go to bed while managing to murder zero people.”
Baker also said the attacks were not racially motivated and instead repeated the suspect’s claims that his sexual addiction was to blame.
Said Oliver: “[That] feels like a weird distinction to be making. ‘Hey I might be a mass murderer, but watch who you’re calling a racist. Words hurt.'”
(It should be noted that Baker was replaced as the spokesman after making those comments.)
Oliver went on to criticize authorities for refusing to label the shootings a hate crime: “A white man driving across two counties going to three Asian-owned businesses shooting and killing six Asian women in a city that’s only about 4 percent Asian sure as shit seems more like a hate crime to me than a ‘bad fucking day.'”
Oliver also took aim at Trump for calling the coronavirus the “China virus” and Meghan McCain’s past comment that she does not “have a problem with people calling it whatever they want.”
Said Oliver: “Oh good! Meghan McCain doesn’t have a problem with it! Listen not to the scores of Asian-Americans telling everyone that the term is dangerous and offensive; instead, gather round and take the word of a wealthy white woman who’s dressed like she’s about to lay off 47 people on Zoom.”
Noting that McCain did post on a message on Twitter last week reading “STOP ASIAN HATE,” he added: “Saying ‘I don’t have a problem calling it the China virus’ is giving space for that hate to grow.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.