HBO's John Oliver Exposes the Horrifying Way Fox News' 'Sh*ttiest Conspiracy Theory' is Changing Minds on the Mueller Investigation
During his Sunday episode of "Last Week Tonight," HBO host John Oliver explained that approval for the investigation into President Donald Trump stood at 26 percent in July 2017, but today, that number is 54 percent.
"If that number keeps dropping [Trump] may well feel empowered enough to actually [end the investigation]," Oliver warned. It might all come down to the opinion of the American people, which is easily shifted by the likes of Fox News.
He then revealed three horrifying ways in which the Trump team has managed to move the American public into thinking that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation needs to end. Noting that Trump and his lawyers have managed to do their own dirty work to undermine Mueller, Oliver called out Fox News for using their airwaves to broadcast the "sh*ttest conspiracy theory ever" to maintain the innocence of Trump.
"And if you're thinking, 'Well, I don't watch Fox News. I tune all of that stuff out,' it's actually important you know what has been happening on it, for reasons that, and I cannot believe I'm saying this, Rudy Giuliani explains best, " Oliver said. "When he was asked why he keeps going around spreading unsubstantiated nonsense, he offered this explanation."
He then played a clip of the Trump lawyer saying that everything will ultimately come down to an impeachment vote and that the vote to impeach will really come down to the American people's support for their members of Congress. Thus, when Giuliani goes on television, he's arguing the case to the American public, trying to change public opinion and with it the support for impeachment. The polls show, it's actually working.
Trump is also working to "redefine the investigation on his terms," Oliver said. Fox News uses inaccurate framing to put words in the mouth of the special counsel.
The HBO host showed several clips in which Fox personalities keep asking for evidence of collusion, saying that if Mueller can't find it, no one is guilty. The reality is 20 people have been indicted thus far under the Russia investigation, and splinter investigations have been discovered in the process.
The investigation also isn't actually about collusion, rather it's about whether a person or the campaign conspired with the Russian government to infiltrate the 2016 election. The Trump allies maintain there is "zero evidence" to confirm anything. The reality, however, is that no one has any idea what has been found under the secret grand jury. In many cases, Mueller's office has managed to keep things secret for months, until public court documents are filed and reported.
"So, saying the investigation has to shut down if there's no collusion is like saying a game of Scrabble has to end because you fit all of the letters in your mouth," Oliver said.
Second, Sean Hannity is particularly good at using "whataboutism," the tactic of simply throwing out names and unsubstantiated or irrelevant allegations and asking "what about them?" Hannity uses it frequently when talking about Hillary Clinton, asking "what about" her, because she met with a Russian person at some point in her career. In Hannity world this means that Clinton clearly conspired with Russia to get dirt on herself and hand it to her opponents to beat her in her own campaign.
Finally, Oliver explained the campaign for Trump's innocence is "building a counter-narrative" to delegitimize the investigation by building a conspiracy that the investigation is all part of the "deep state."
The most recent casualty of the Trump counter-narrative was Trey Gowdy, who took Trump's conspiracy theory on "Spygate" and explained that the FBI is tasked with investigating possible criminal activity. When they do that, it isn't called spying. Defending the FBI, however, earned Gowdy a ticket straight to the ban list of Fox Business host Lou Dobbs.
"Here's someone who is no stranger to digging up dirt on Hillary and even he says this is nonsense," Oliver said of Gowdy. "The headline 'FBI Investigates Crime' is like the headline 'Dominoes Delivers Pizza' or 'Harley-Davidson Sells Mid-Life Crisis Mobile To Local Dad.'"
Oliver explained that is part of the problem, where anyone who questions a conspiracy theory is obviously then part of it.
Watch his full explainer below: