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With the percentage of the total U.S. population that’s fully vaccinated still sitting at around 50 percent, Republican leaders in a number of particularly vulnerable states have descended even further into stubbornly anti-health messaging.
Some of the biggest offenders, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and North Carolina Representative Madison Cawthorn, were given special shout-outs in the latest episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight on HBO.
At the top of the episode, Oliver noted that the country appears to be entering what he described as a “dipshit autumn” due to the persistent presence of anti-vaxxer and anti-mask voices in some parts of the country. This is all transpiring, Oliver pointed out, while children—particularly in undervaccinated regions—are being reported to be particularly affected by the Delta variant.
“If you told me just a few years ago that Florida’s Republican governor would respond to a deadly threat with ‘These waves are something you just have to deal with,’ I would have assumed they were talking about Miami sinking into a warming ocean, not a completely different and totally self-induced crisis,” Oliver, after sharing a clip of DeSantis indeed saying citizens must “deal with” such a thing, said.
Oliver also accurately referred to DeSantis as a “cut-rate Coach Taylor,” i.e. the fictional Friday Night Lights character played by Kyle Chandler.
DeSantis, of course, has been repeatedly in headlines as of late due to his efforts at blocking mask mandates from being implemented by school officials. Others, including Cawthorn, have also taken up this approach by giving their supporters a made-up enemy to focus on instead of the very real pandemic.
Cawthorn, as Oliver made special mention of in the episode, once shared a video of himself beating up a tree. And while Cawthorn attempted to use his ancestry as some sort of rallying cry during a recent event in which he said children’s biggest enemy is “woke liberal government officials,” Oliver directed viewers to the fact that the ancestors in question were slave owners.
“He clearly loves to pick useless fights against imaginary opponents where he comes out looking like a complete asshole,” Oliver said.
Other examples of this ideology in play were also highlighted, including threats made against health officials in a Tennessee county following a mask mandate vote and the often-used-among-anti-maskers (and wholly inaccurate) comparison of Nazism. The former, notably, saw Oliver comparing one anti-vaxxer’s threat of “We know who you are” to a recent disappointing Jeopardy! host update.
“It is genuinely hard to imagine a five-word phrase less welcome than ‘We know who you are,’ aside from obviously ‘New Jeopardy! host Mike Richards,’” he joked, later bringing the phrase full-circle to drive home the point that all of this mess could be easily near-remedied if the country was at a much higher vaccination rate.
“You really want to protect the health of children and the community they live in? Here’s your fucking answer,” Oliver said near the end of the opening segment. “We are only fighting about masks in schools right now because there are a bunch of foolish adults who have decided not to get the vaccine. And to all of them I can only say, to quote a bunch of upsettingly loud idiots, we know who you are. Ad you’re the fucking problem.”
Still not vaccinated? Fix that.
And below, catch more of the latest Last Week Tonight, which is always available in full via HBO: