“Donald Trump” was the core part of the third season’s third episode, during which time Trump was the frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination for the United States Presidency. Oliver discusses Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and his career in business, outlining his campaign rhetoric, varying political positions and failed business ventures. He also says the Trump family name was changed at one point from the ancestral name “Drumpf”. The segment popularized the term “Donald Drumpf” – which as Oliver stated, was coined with the intent to uncouple the grandeur of the last name so Trump’s supporters would be able to better acknowledge his political and entrepreneurial flaws, and started a campaign urging viewers to “Make Donald Drumpf Again” – a play on Trump’s own campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
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Aired on February 28, 2016
Welcome, welcome, welcome to Last Week Tonight. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m John Oliver, just time for a quick recap of the week. And we begin with Egypt. Or, as ISIS calls it, “next”. Egypt is currently in the throes of a serious economic crisis, and their leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has not been handling it well. Just a couple of weeks ago, he unveiled a new public housing complex, which should’ve been great news, but he didn’t strike a particularly appropriate tone. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi arrived on a red carpet that stretched over two miles. Soon after the extravagant arrival el-Sisi made a speech about cutting government subsidies, claiming the state could not continue to subsidize water and electricity. Strutting down a red carpet which reportedly cost $200,000, on the very day you plan to tell people to use less water. The only less sensitive way he could’ve arrived was via log flume. So this week, el-Sisi tried again to boost Egypt’s economic spirits, by launching a new development strategy called “vision 20-30.” Which, frankly, already wasn’t ideal, as that name is already synonymous with vision being not quite perfect. And wait until you hear some of the details of the plan. We are a nation of 90 million. Just think about it. If only 10 million of us wake up every day and they donate by SMS one Egyptian pound, just one for the sake of this homeland. That’s 10 million pound a day. Yes, part of el-Sisi’s solution was “hey, why don’t you text me money?” He’s begging for public support the way Paula Deen begged people to keep her on “Dancing With The Stars.”
Although I will admit, his plan nearly had one very intriguing option: For myself, I can say seriously, if I may be sold. It’s ok for me to be sold. Okay, then! Selling yourself for the country. You are pitching an amazing sequel to Indecent Proposal. A man tries to save his country… The hard way.
And credit here to the Egyptian people who channeled their anger into setting up an eBay page, offering the sale of a used field marshal in decent condition. Which, honestly, wouldn’t be the dumbest thing ever to be sold on e-Bay. After all, last month some idiot paid $106 for “possibly the largest Raisin Bran flakes in the world.” And let me just say: that idiot is very happy with his purchase. But, thank you, thank you.
But with all the turmoil Egypt is in at the moment, what el-Sisi needed to do was reassure the country he had everything under control. But, again, I am not sure he struck the right tone. And I’m telling all Egyptians that don’t listen to anyone except me. I’m serious! Don’t listen to anyone except me. “Don’t listen to anyone but me, I’m serious.” It’s not good when your country’s leader sounds like a frightened substitute teacher. And just like a substitute teacher, you have a feeling that el-Sisi is going to be replaced very, very soon.
But let’s move on to Guantanamo Bay. The Hotel California of prisons, in that you can never leave, and like that album, it is a permanent stain on America’s reputation. The president unveiled what he claimed was a major new plan this week. Today the department is submitting to congress our plan for finally closing the facility at Guantanamo once and for all. I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next president, whoever it is. That’s a laudable goal. Guantanamo is like a 37-year-old who’s still trying to be a singer-songwriter: it’s time someone shut that down. You can’t just pass the problem on to his next girlfriend, whoever she is. But if the president’s speech sounded familiar at all to you, it may be because he signed an executive order just two days after taking office to close Guantanamo. And look at him back then! So young, so hopeful! Like a boy-band in the 90s signing their first record contract while Lou Pearlman salivates nearby. And year after year, he has made the same promise: I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. Make no mistake: we will close Guantanamo prison. I still want to close Guantanamo. As president, I have tried to close Gitmo. I will continue to push to close Gitmo. It’s time to close Gitmo. That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. Holy shit. Just look at him then and now. The president and Guantanamo Bay are aging together like the couple from “Up,” and it’s starting to seem like Obama might be the wife who dies first. But I hope the president does not think the 7th year is going to be the charm, because the republican leadership’s stance can best be summed up by a video senator Pat Roberts released: This is what I think of the president’s plan to send terrorists to the US. Okay, well, first: sick shot. Although technically, that could mean you think the president’s plan is nothing but net. So maybe work on your messaging. But the law is actually on senator Roberts’ side. In 2010, congress banned the use of federal money to bring detainees into the country. And just three months ago, they tightened those restrictions. So the president’s speech this week was pretty much a symbolic gesture. Like saying “let me help you with the dishes” at the end of a party. If you hand me a sponge, I swear to fucking god I’m never coming back to your apartment. And while the president’s determination to get this done is admirable, you have to wish that he’d thought this closure through more fully. Because the lack of a concrete plan was painfully obvious from the very day he signed that executive order. Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now. We will be… Is there a separate executive order, Greg, with respect to how we’re gonna dispose of the detainees? – Is that written? – We’re setting up a process. We will be setting up a process whereby this is gonna be taking place. Wait, wait: who the fuck is Greg? And why are you asking him now? I have to say, when it comes to dashed presidential promises, president Obama’s “mission accomplished” might just be… “You got this, Greg, right? Greg’s got it.” And now this. And now… Basketball enthusiast Pat Roberts spends 12 minutes of senate time fantasizing about playing one on one with the president. Everybody knows the president’s a very good basketball player. I would emphasize the president bounce the ball to him, just to bounce pass, to say your ball, Mr. President. Ball’s in your court. He would probably go to the left corner and sink a 3 about that time. I would probably be dribbling a lot. Or trying to. And then after I shot and missed it and I’d say, your ball again, Mr. President. By that time, the president has scored a couple of layups and two more jump shots. By that time, the president probably stole the ball and scored another layup. I’m still on my second shot, on the free shot. I scored a hook shot, Mr. President. That’s the end of the ball game. But it is not the end of the debate.
Moving on: our main story tonight, and I cannot believe I’m saying this is Donald Trump. And I say that, knowing every time his name is said out loud, he has a shattering orgasm. We have mostly ignored Trump on this show. But he has now won three states, has been endorsed by Chris Christie, and polls show him leading most Super Tuesday states. Which is a big deal. Since 1988, every candidate who’s won the most states on Super Tuesday went on to become their party’s nominee. So at this point, Donald Trump is America’s back mole. It may’ve seemed harmless a year ago, but now that it’s gotten frighteningly bigger, it is no longer wise to ignore it.
And I do understand why Trump supporters might like him. He’s unpredictable and entertaining. Just look at how he went after Marco Rubio on Friday: Did you ever see a guy sweat like this? It’s Rubio. That’s him. That’s objectively funny. Just as it was funny when, a few years ago, he tweeted, “I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September the 11th.” He wished haters and losers a happy 9/11! There is a part of me that even likes the guy. It’s a part of me I hate, but it is a part of me. And if you are someone who’s sick of the party establishment, he might seem like a protest candidate with some attractive qualities. We like him. He tells it like it is. He says what he means, I honestly believe he’s telling the truth. He’s funding his own campaign. Nobody owns him. He’s aggressive and he’s strong and he’s bold. I think he’s an incredible businessman. If he runs the country like he runs his organization, we would be in good shape.
Donald Trump can seem appealing… Until you take a closer look, much like the lunch buffet at a strip club, or the NFL or having a pet chimpanzee. Sure, it seems fun, but someday, Coco is going to tear your limbs off. Because let’s look at each of those qualities those people listed. First: “he tells it like it is.” Does he? Because, the website Politifact checked 77 of his statements, and rated 76 percent of them as varying degrees of false. I’ve witnessed this first-hand. He once attacked my old boss by tweeting, “if Jon Stewart is so above it all and legit, why did he change his name from Jonathan Leibowitz? He should be proud of his heritage.” And then, two years later, wrote, “I never attacked dopey Jon Stewart for his phony last name. Would never do that.” And then, just last year, he claimed, falsely, to have turned down an invite to appear on this “very boring” show. And who is he trying to impress with that lie? Our show’s guests include sloths and puppies. We’re basically a petting zoo with a desk. But when we pointed out that he had never been invited, this is how he responded:
All of the sudden I see people saying that John Oliver, and I’m saying, John Oliver? And I checked with my people. He asked me to be on the show four or five times. I don’t even hardly know who he was. I wouldn’t know what he looks like.
First, I wouldn’t expect him to know who I was, although, for his inevitable angry tweet about this segment, I’ll tell him what I look like: I look like a near-sighted parrot who works at a bank. But secondly: it was genuinely destabilizing to be on the receiving end of a lie that confident. I even checked to make sure that no one had even accidentally invited him. And, of course, they hadn’t. And I’m not even sure he knows he’s lying. I think he just doesn’t care about what the truth is. Donald Trump views the truth like this Lemur views the Supreme Court vacancy. “I don’t care about that in any way. Please fuck off, I have a banana.”
So let’s move on, let’s move on to his next selling point: that he is truly independent, and not beholden to anyone, or as he puts it:
I’m self-funding my campaign. I tell the truth. – How much have you spent so far? – Probably twenty-five million dollars.
Okay, let’s break that down. First, “I’m rich, therefore I tell the truth” has the same internal logic as, “I’m a vegan, therefore I know karate”. There is no cause-and-effect between those two, and the correlation usually goes the other way. And while it is true that he hasn’t taken corporate money, the implication that he’s personally spent 20 to 25 million dollars is a bit of a stretch. Because what he’s actually done is “loaned” his own campaign $17 and a half million. And has just personally “given” just $250,000. And that’s important, because up until the convention, he can pay himself back for the loan with campaign funds. If you don’t think there’s a big difference between a gift and a loan, try giving your spouse an anniversary loan and see how that goes.
And even he himself sometimes admits that his campaign is by no means completely self-funded.
I’m self funding my campaign, other than the little tiny ones, where women send in… We had a woman $7.59. What do you do? How could you send the money back? You know, it’s cute. It’s beautiful. They feel invested in your campaign.
He makes it sound like women stuff grimy dollar bills in envelopes, writing “Donald Trump” on the front, and he’s too kind to send them back. But he’s taken in 7,5 million dollars in individual contributions. And if he didn’t want it, maybe he shouldn’t have had two “donate” buttons on his website. Because money isn’t “unsolicited” when you have to ask for someone’s credit card expiration date to get it.
Okay, so how about the claim that he’s “tough”? Well again, I’m not sure about that. Because for a tough guy, he has incredibly thin skin. Back in 1988, “Spy” magazine called him a “short-fingered vulgarian.” And ever since, the editor, Graydon Carter, says he receives envelopes from Trump, always with a photo on which he’s circled his hand, to highlight the length of his fingers, usually with a note reading, “See? Not so short!” And look: his fingers seem fine. But the very fact he’s so sensitive about them is absolutely hilarious. As is the fact that those notes were apparently written in gold Sharpie. Which is so quintessentially Donald Trump: something that gives the appearance of wealth but is just a cheap tool.
Now, Trump’s signature tough talk, his signature tough talk often involves lawsuits. He loves to threaten to sue people, like he did with Rosie O’Donnell.
She said I was bankrupt, I never went bankrupt. So probably I’ll sue her. Because it would be fun. I’d like to take some money out of her fat ass pockets.
Look… Of course, he needs to take Rosie O’Donnell to court to take money out of her pockets because his tiny, tiny fingers are too short to reach into her wallet. But he never sued her. He never sued Rosie O’Donnell. In fact, he’s repeatedly threatened people with lawsuits and not followed through, including the rapper Mac Miller, Lawrence O’Donnell, Vanity Fair, and an activist who launched a petition for Macy’s to drop Trump’s products. “I’ll sue you” is Trump’s version of “Bazinga”. It doesn’t really mean anything, but he says it all the time.
But perhaps Trump’s biggest selling point as a candidate is his success. And where could people get that idea from?
I’m really rich. I actually think I have the best temperament. People love me. I’ve been very successful. Everybody loves me. I went to an Ivy League school, I’m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words.
Oh, please. Literally the biggest word in the sentence “I have the best words” is the word “words.” But it’s worth noting: while yes, he has made more money than most of us will make in a lifetime, not only did he get a multimillion-dollar inheritance from his father, but he’s also lost a huge amount. And this is where we need to be careful, because as we’ve learned, he will threaten to sue your fat-ass pockets with his cocktail-sausage fingers if you talk about his companies’ bankruptcies. So I will just let his own daughter describe the state of his finances at one point in his life.
I remember once my father and I were walking down Fifth Avenue, and there was a homeless person sitting right outside of Trump Tower. And I remember my father pointing to him and saying, “That guy has eight billion dollars more than me,” because he was in such extreme debt at that point.
And that really shows you the indomitable spirit of Donald Trump. To fall to his lowest point, and in that very moment, still find a way to be kind of a dick to a homeless guy.
Now, his campaign claims his current worth is in excess of ten billion dollars, and they’ve written it in all caps, so it must be true. But others have disputed that figure. In fact, a book once suggested that Trump might be worth a mere $150 million to $250 million, which Trump protested by suing the writer for $5 billion dollars. Which is a pretty roundabout way of getting half the way to ten billion. And you should know, for the record, Trump lost that lawsuit, twice. But I am glad that he sued, if only because, during the deposition, he explained that his estimate of his net worth fluctuates, based on, and I quote, “feelings, even my own feelings, and that can change rapidly from day to day.” Think about that: he claimed his net worth changes depending on his mood. Which makes absolutely no sense, partly because he always seems to be in the same mood, specifically: smug, yet gassy.
And interestingly… Interestingly, a significant portion of his selfvaluation is intangible:
His brand is what he values very much, and on his disclosure form that he’s released, it’s about $3 billion. That’s what he values his brand as.
Exactly, he values his own name at $3 billion. And I’m not saying a name can’t have value, it’s why people will pay $120 for a plain white t-shirt that is “designed” by Kanye West. They don’t want just any white t-shirt, they want one designed by a bored sociopath with a fingerfree anus. But $3 billion seems a bit high. Especially because, while Trump said, “If I put my name on something, you know it’s gonna be good”, over the years, his name has been on some things that have arguably been very un-good, including Trump Shuttle, which no longer exists. Trump Vodka, which was discontinued. Trump Magazine, which folded, Trump World Magazine, which also folded. Trump University, over which he is being sued, and of course the travel-booking site “go Trump dot com,” whose brief existence was a real thorn in the side of anyone hoping “got rump dot com” featured a single thing worth masturbating to.
And that’s not even mentioning this: When it comes to great steaks, I’ve just raised the stakes. Trump steaks are the world’s greatest steaks, and I mean that in every sense of the word. And The Sharper Image is the only store where you can buy them!
And not only can you not buy those steaks anymore, but why did he sell them at The Sharper Image? That is a weird choice. “I will take a massage chair, an indoor waterfall, and eight and a half pounds of the finest meat in America.”
And sure, every business executive is bound to have a few missteps. But Trump’s lack of sound financial instincts is perhaps best exemplified by the business that he put his name on back in 2006. Just before the entire housing market collapsed.
I think it’s a great time to start a mortgage company. We’re going to have a great company, it’s Trump Mortgage and “Trump mortgage dot com,” and it’s gonna be a terrific company.
Yeah, it wasn’t. In fact… In fact, starting a mortgage company in 2006 was one of the worst decisions you could possibly make. But I guess you can convince yourself it was a good idea when you say 30 words and five of them are “great,” “great,” “terrific,” “Trump,” and “Trump.”
And you might say, “well, never mind side businesses, what he really is, is a builder.” But a building with Trump written on it is not necessarily owned by him. He may just have licensed his name to them, something he claims is actually “Better than ownership… You don’t put up money. You don’t put up anything.” Spoken like a true builder. And… And some of those licensed buildings sell his reputation hard. Like the sales video for the Trump Ocean Resort in northern Mexico:
I’m very, very proud of the fact that when I build, I have investors that follow me all over. People ask me: what does Trump stand for more than anything else? And if I use one word, it’s always quality.
Right, but it’s easy to throw around the word “quality”. Have you ever stayed at a Quality Inn? The pillows are stuffed with hair they fished out of the bathtub drain. He was never the builder for that project, which was later abandoned, leaving would-be condo buyers like William Flint, who lost $168,000, feeling understandably betrayed.
Donald Trump was an expert in these types of projects or so we thought.
In a deposition for a lawsuit regarding the property Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. conceded the Trump brand could lead people to think a project was a solid investment.
There’s one of the things you’ve learned through this process is the Trump name brings stability and reliability to the project. I don’t know if it brings stability or viability but I imagine certain people feel that.
And that might actually be the most honest slogan for the Trump campaign: “Trump 2016: I don’t know if it brings stability or viability, but I imagine certain people feel that.”
Not only… Not only did investors in that property sue Donald Trump, they also did in Trump Tower Tampa, another project that never got off the ground. And in both cases, Trump characteristically deflected blame onto the developers. You’d think those investors would be facing an impossible legal battle, given Trump’s tough talk:
When I get sued, I take it all the way. You know what happens if you settle suits? You get sued more. It’s true. I don’t settle anything. I don’t settle.
Guess what? He settled both those cases. But the problem is, even when you can demonstrably prove Trump to be wrong, it somehow never seems to matter. You can hold his feet to the fire, but he’ll stand there on the stumps bragging about his fireproof foot skin. And that may be because he’s spent decades turning his own name into a brand synonymous with success and quality. And he’s made himself the mascot for that brand, like Ronald McDonald or Chef Boyardee. And that is who we have seen in “The Apprentice”, or Wrestlemania, or “Home Alone 2”. But if he’s actually going to be the Republican nominee, it’s time to stop thinking of the mascot, and start thinking of the man. ‘Cause a candidate for president needs a coherent set of policies. Whatever you think about Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, at least you basically know where they stand. But Trump’s opinions have been wildly inconsistent. He’s been pro-choice and pro-life. For and against assault-weapon bans. In favor of both bringing in Syrian refugees, and deporting them out of the country. And that inconsistency can be troubling. Just this morning for instance, he was asked about the fact that David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, told supporters to vote for him. And this was his answer:
Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists? Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. Honestly, I don’t know David Duke, I don’t believe I’ve ever met him, I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him, and I just don’t know anything about him.
Really? That’s your best answer there? Because you definitely know who he is, partly ’cause you’ve called him a bigot and a racist in the past, but that’s not even the fucking point. The point is, with an answer like that, you are either racist or you are pretending to be, and at some point, there is no difference there. And sure, he disavowed David Duke later in the day, but the scary thing is, we have no way of knowing which of his inconsistent views he’ll hold in office. Will he stand by his statement that vaccines are linked to autism? Or his belief that Mexico is sending us rapists? Oh, and what about that plan he had to defeat ISIS?
We’re fighting a very politically correct war. But the thing is, with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself, but they say they don’t care about ti, you have to take out their families.
That is the frontrunner for the republican nomination, advocating a war crime. And he might say he was joking, or he’s changed his mind about any of these things. And private individuals are allowed to change their minds. We all do it. But when he’s sworn in as president on January 20, 2017, on that day, his opinions are going to matter. And you will remember that date, because it’s the one time travelers from the future will come back to, to try and stop the whole thing from happening.
And listen, I get that the character of Donald Trump is entertaining. And that he says things that people want to hear. And I know his very name is powerful. Just listen to this one supporter explain what it means to her:
I was a little girl. I didn’t even know what Trump Towers were, but I knew that he was a wealthy successful man.
Somehow, even as a very young kid, the word ‘Trump’ meant ‘rich’ to you?
It meant success.
She’s not even wrong. “Trump” does sound rich. It’s almost onomatopoeic. “Trump!” It’s the sound produced when a mouthy servant is slapped across the face with a wad of $1,000 bills. “Trump!” It’s the sound of a cork popping on a couple’s champagneaversay, the date renovations in the wine-cellar were finally completed. The very name “Trump” is the cornerstone of his brand. If only there were a way to uncouple that magical word from the man he really is. Well, guess what? There is. Because it turns out, the name “Trump” was not always his family’s name. One biographer found that a prescient ancestor had changed it from and this is true, Drumpf. Yes, fucking “Drumpf”! And Drumpf is much less magical. It’s the sound produced when a morbidly obese pigeon flies into the window of a foreclosed Old Navy. Drumpf! It’s the sound of a bottle of store-brand root beer falling off the shelf in a gas station mini-mart. And it may seem weird to bring up his ancestral name, but to quote Donald Trump, “he should be proud of his heritage”. Because “Drumpf” is much more reflective of who he actually is.
So if you are thinking of voting for Donald Trump, the charismatic guy promising to make America great again, stop and take a moment to imagine how you would feel if you just met a guy named Donald Drumpf. A litigious serial liar with a string of broken business ventures and the support of a former Klan leader, who he can’t decide whether or not to condemn. Would you think he would make a good president? Or is the spell now somewhat broken? And that is why tonight, I’m asking America to make Donald Drumpf again! Hashtag “make Donald Drumpf again.”
We’ve actually filed paperwork to trademark the name Drumpf. And incidentally, when we own it, I will have the best word. And if you go to “Donald J. Drumpf dot com”, which we own, you can download a Drumpfinator Chrome extension, which will replace the word “Trump” with “Drumpf” wherever it appears in your browser. And you can also buy these “Make Donald Drumpf Again” hats which we are selling at cost, meaning we’ve chosen not to make a profit. A fact which will irritate Mr. Drumpf more than anything else I said tonight. And if you’re thinking, well, that’s all great, but I wish there was a new campaign anthem for Donald Drumpf, here it is now. Here it is right now. Because listen, we cannot keep getting blinded by the magic of his name. We need to see him through fresh eyes. So please, don’t think of him as Donald Trump. Think of him as something else. And don’t vote for him because he tells it like it is, he’s a bullshit artist. Don’t vote for him because he’s tough, he’s a baby, with even smaller fingers. Don’t vote for him because he’s a “builder”, he’s more of a shitty lifestyle brand. And that is our show! Mr. Drumpf, I await your lawsuit in the morning. I have no doubt that the complaint will be signed in gold Sharpie.
Goodnight! What’s his motherfucking name? Donald Drumpf, Donald Drumpf, Donald Drumpf.