John Oliver used the opening segment of Sunday’s Last Week Tonight to weigh in on the tragic event that took place in Tennessee last month, when three kids and three adults were killed in a school shooting.
Following the tragedy at Covenant School, a private elementary school in a Nashville suburb, on March 27, young activists took to the state Capitol to protest “the lack of response from the legislature while engaging in some catchy chants concerning Governor Bill Lee,” Oliver noted, before showing footage of the protesters repeatedly chanting, “Fuck Bill Lee!”
Replied the HBO show’s host: “Look, you can try and get clever with it. But at the end of the day, there’s just nothing like a chant that goes ‘fuck’ and then the name of the person that you’re mad at. It’s short. It’s sweet. It’s to the point. It’s ‘Fuck Bill Lee.’”
Oliver went on to argue that the response from both Lee and other Republicans has been “deeply underwhelming.” He showed a clip of state Rep. William Lamberth was insisting that it would be pointless to institute a ban on AR-15 rifles.
“You’re not going to like my answer, and look, I’m going to say that straight up,” Lamberth said. “It’s not about this one gun. If there is a firearm out there that you’re comfortable being shot with, please show me which one it is.”
Replied Oliver: “I mean that is a Hall of Fame shitty response. But also, if your opener is, ‘you’re not gonna like my answer,’ maybe start thinking of some better ones. And for the record, I don’t want to be shot by any guns. I don’t want even want to get shot by a Nerf gun.”
Meanwhile, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two Democratic state Representatives who took part in a gun control protest, were expelled from Tennessee’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives last week. A third representative, Gloria Johnson, who also joined the gun control protest, was spared expulsion by one member vote.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton gave a news interview in which he defended the expulsions, claiming the pair were inciting violence. When asked if he had any evidence supporting that, Sexton replied, “I mean, you can’t prove that.”
“Oh, ok,” said Oliver. “So you can’t prove they were inciting violence. But in the interest of safety, you feel you have a responsibility to take their dangerous platform away from them. But if instead of megaphones, they had, say, something that can fire 100 rounds in a matter of minutes, then, sadly, it’s literally impossible to do anything to prevent that because we asked the prematurely embalmed mayor of Whoville, and he said no.”
It’s worth noting that Johnson is white, while Jones and Pearson are Black. When asked why Johnson escaped expulsion while the other two did not, she replied, “It might have to do with the color of our skin.”
“There was a pattern to the results that was pretty hard to miss,” Oliver noted.
Johnson also has pointed out that the Tennessee legislature has allowed far worse behavior with no repercussions: “We had a child molester on the floor for years. They helped him get re-elected and did nothing to expel him. We’ve had members pee in each other’s chairs. We’ve had members prescribe drugs to their cousin mistress and nothing happened.”
Chimed in Oliver: “Sorry, ‘cousin mistress’?! Do you know how crazy a list of allegations has to be for someone to go, ‘There was that child molester for years, but honestly don’t even bother writing that down because wait till you hear about the next couple of things that I’m about to say?’”
He further argued that “it was not a great sign for Tennessee when they punished the ones speaking out against gun violence while keeping the ones who ask, ‘Which gun would you be comfortable being shot with?’”
He added: “Look, there are pretty clearly two big issues going on here — racism and gun violence — which incidentally will in all likelihood be the name of the next Kid Rock album. And Tennessee lawmakers can continue to brush both of those issues aside saying ‘guns aren’t the problem’ or ‘we don’t see color,’ but the young people of Tennessee are making it very clear they are sick of waiting and that change is long overdue.