With a “Donald Fucking Trump is in the White House” situation on our hands, it’s frankly irresponsible for John Oliver and the other late-night hosts who cathartically point out all the racist, larcenous, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise appalling things Trump does every goddamned day to jet off to wherever funny people go when they need to decompress. Still, when John Oliver and the Last Week Tonight crew have some time to themselves to really marinate in a few weeks’ worth of Trump’s rancid bullshit, they come out swinging with renewed energy, so perhaps we’ll let it slide. This time.
On Sunday’s return, Oliver caught up on a backlog of Trump’s boorishness, bigotry, and baffling buffoonery before launching into a long, stomach-churningly comprehensive retrospective on the career of the person to whom Donald Trump chose to grant his first ever presidential pardon. Namely, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the answer, according to Oliver, to the question, “What if a decaying russet potato somehow hated Mexicans?” Earlier this year, Arpaio was finally convicted of criminal contempt (after being voted out of office back in November), after decades of treating Maricopa County, Arizona as the dusty, sun-bleached Thunderdome for his squirmiest racist torture porn fantasies. You know, like his “tent city,” where accused criminals (sometimes of minor or imaginary offenses, like being not-white) endured meager, maggoty food, hellish temperatures, physical abuse, and purposeful humiliation. (Trump’s favorite lawman liked to dress grown men in his jail in pretty pink underwear for totally not-weird reasons, and once installed a webcam in the women’s bathroom because he’s a grimy old creep.) Or how he deliberately ignored hundreds of sex crimes against women and children, mostly among the county’s immigrant community. Or the fact that his concentration camp escapades wound up costing the state tens of millions of dollars in settlements for, among other things, wrongful death.
But, as Oliver put it, it was Arpaio’s defiant enthusiasm for racial profiling that seemingly caught Donald Trump’s fancy. Shown whipping an overwhelmingly white pro-Joe crowd of MAGA types into a frenzy at the hint that he was planning to pardon the not-yet-sentenced Arpaio “for doing his job,” Trump was, as Oliver states, rewarding a man for doing the exact opposite of the job of a law enforcement officer. Sending a clear signal to other law enforcement officers that he’s got their back should they, like “America’s toughest sheriff” decide the Constitution is just sort of a suggestion when it comes to abusing your power in service of your most reprehensible prejudices, Donald Trump, according to Oliver, delivered a “slap in the face to the very rule of law itself.” It’s pretty grim stuff all around, but at least Last Week Tonight is back—except for next week, when Oliver’s taking Sunday off for the Emmys. Son of a bitch.