John Oliver Says That President Donald Trump's Executive Order Is 'Viscerally Offensive'
John Oliver regularly objects to the postures and policies of President Donald Trump. But this time — when the issue is banning immigrants, refugees and travelers from Muslim countries — it’s personal for the TV news satirist, an immigrant himself.
Speaking with Dan Rather on SiriusXM’s “Dan Rather’s America” on Tuesday, the Last Week Tonight host discussed Trump’s controversial executive order signed on Jan. 27, which temporarily bans any refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, indefinitely bans refugees who hail from Syria and temporarily banning citizens from several Muslim countries from entering the U.S
“I’m very concerned, as a human being, about what is happening. I have been through the American immigration process in the most luxurious way. As a white, male, human being, with a generic first and last name, coming from Great Britain, sponsored by a series of TV production companies in America … and absolutely crystal clear, perfect English. I’ve seen the system at its easiest, and it’s hard. So if I’m getting the best of the system, I really fear for the people getting the system at its worst,” Oliver, 39, told Rather on the radio program.
A U.K. native, Oliver, who now lives in New York, immigrated to the United States from Birmingham and went through the vetting system to be admitted into the U.S. Having undergone the immigrant process firsthand, the TV host recognizes the disparities between his experience and what immigrants are now encountering in their attempt to enter the country.
“Also, as an immigrant, I guess that’s one of the reasons I find some of these actions taken through the executive order so viscerally offensive. It is offensive to me to see how immigrants are being treated. Not just people on green cards, but you talk about visas … the translators who have worked for our military in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have bled for this country without ever having visited it,” said Oliver. “They have sacrificed family members. Something which our president has not done. He has not done either of those things. So for him to see them as a threat to this country rather than a proud benefit, is pretty hard to swallow.”
The 120-day temporary ban also hits close to home for Oliver because his wife, Kate Norley, served in the Iraq war, and worked alongside Iraqi translators to whom the United States made promises that have too often gone unfulfilled.
“She worked with a translator who bled with her in Iraq. So the complications involved in getting him out of there … So many of our military – you go to any military members’ Facebook pages. We made promises to those translators. Those military members made promises saying, ‘Of course I will help you’ because they believed that the country they were fighting for would do the right thing by them,” said Oliver. “And it is heartbreaking to think the extent to which those veterans feel that they have betrayed the people who served alongside them. It is a true shame. It was shameful before this president came into office how we were treating them. It was shameful how they were treated during the last administration. It’s even worse now.”
After Trump signed the executive order, a slew of celebrities and politicians took to social media to express their outrage, including Jennifer Lawrence, Alyssa Milano, Judd Apatow, Mia Farrow and Rihanna.
In response to the international outrage, Trump issued the following statement released by the White House: “America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
The statement continued: “There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver returns for season 4 on Feb. 12 at 11 p.m. ET on HBO.