John Oliver called out Fox News in general and host Sean Hannity in particular for the dishonest portrayals of the protests in Portland, Oregon after President Donald Trump sent federal law enforcement agents to the city.
Portland is among a number of cities where protesters have been demonstrating against police violence on Black people since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
On Sunday, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” said “things weren’t actually especially dire in Portland” and were de-escalating until the feds arrived. In some cases, those federal agents were seen wearing little to no identification, seizing people off the streets and dragging them into unmarked vehicles.
Oliver called such actions the opposite of a de-escalation.
“Masked individuals throwing people into an unmarked van is never a good idea if you want to de-escalate a situation,” he said. “It’s not even a good idea for a surprise bachelorette party.”
But it was the Fox News coverage of the situation that really got Oliver fired up. Viewers of the network might think “it’s the end of America as we know it,” Oliver said as he shared clips of Fox hosts playing up violence.
One clip showed Hannity speaking as a scrolling list of alleged crimes in Portland rolled past him. The list was mostly graffiti.
“In fact, graffiti is listed 12 times in a row there under the headline ‘Violence in Portland,’ which is a huge overstatement,” Oliver said. “And at that point, it would have been just as accurate if that heading had said ‘cannibalism in Portland’ or ‘Texas-chainsaw massacres in Portland’ or ‘9/11s in Portland.’”
Hannity told viewers about an alleged “firebombing” incident, which Oliver said was a significantly less dramatic situation involving either a firework or a small fire. Hannity also described the situation in Portland as “insane,” and Oliver agreed, just for a different reason altogether.
“Yeah, it is insane,” said Oliver. “Because that tone does not honestly reflect the conditions on the ground.”
Oliver said Trump was using Portland as a staging ground “to put on an authoritarian show of force” and warned it “could end very badly.” Then, he offered a basic cognitive test for those who support Trump’s crackdown.
“How many fingers am I holding up?” he asked:
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