UPDATE 7:37 p.m. ET:
John Oliver has been accused by activist group Debt Collective of stealing the idea to buy $15 million in debt for a segment on Last Week Tonight. In a statement released Monday the group alleges a Last Week Tonight researcher contacted them eight months ago for their previous project in buying and canceling debt. Debt Collective says it successfully erased $30 million in medical and tuition debt within 2012 to 2015 when the project ran.
Debt Collective says the LWT researcher said the show wished to do the same which is why they explained at length how they could go about doing it and what resources, connections they needed in order to do so.
"At the last minute Wilson told us LWT did not want to associate themselves with the work of the Rolling Jubilee due to its roots in Occupy Wall Street," wrote Debt Collective.
Debt Collective also wrote, "But apparently our activism—or our message—was beyond the pale. Apparently our position that NO ONE should have to go into debt to secure the basic necessities of life, and that any debt incurred to pay for health care or education is morally illegitimate is too radical for LWT."
See original story below.
A TV record once held by Oprah—she spent $8 million during a giveaway in 2004—has been shattered in the name of debt relief. John Oliver, who's previously minced no words when it comes to many Americans' life-halting debt crises, gave $14,922,261.76 to nearly 9,000 Texans on Sunday's Last Week Tonight just to stick it to predatory debt buyers.
Debt, according to Oliver's astute analysis, is not only "the reason that Nicolas Cage has made so many great choices over the years," it's also the reason many Americans—particularly those strapped with debt stemming from overwhelming medical expenses—feel absolutely trapped.
Americans have collectively amassed more than $12 trillion in debt, more than $400 billion of which is 90 or more days overdue. When these debts are charged off by the original creditors, they are often sold—for a fraction of their original value—to decidedly less-than-virtuous debt buyers. "It is pretty clear by now that debt-buying is a grimy business and badly needs more oversight," Oliver explained. "As it stands, any idiot can get into it, and I can prove that to you, because I'm an idiot and we started a debt-buying company."
In true John Oliver fashion, the former Daily Show correspondent decided to get in on that action himself, with a remarkable twist. After buying nearly $15 million of out-of-statute medical debt from Texas, Oliver decided to forgive every last cent. "Clearly, this is only going to help the 9,000 people whose medical debt we bought," Oliver said. "The larger issue is we need much clearer rules and tougher oversight to protect consumers from potentially predatory companies like the one we set up."
Your move, Oprah.