During a long segment attacking conservative media on his HBO show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, John Oliver singled out Fox News host Steve Hilton. He attacked Fox News for ostensibly minimizing the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, blaming the network for skewing President Donald Trump’s messaging on the virus. Oliver attacked Hilton and his show directly because Trump seemed to echo Hilton’s warning that America’s economic response to the virus should not become more dangerous than the virus itself.
“Our current president is not just the subject of this misinformation, he is — as we all know — also the target of it, often pulling his talking points directly from what he sees,” Oliver argued.
The HBO host ran a clip from The Next Revolution With Steve Hilton, in which the Fox host asks, “You know that famous phrase, ‘the cure is worse than the disease’? That is exactly the territory we are hurtling towards.”
Oliver then ran clips of Trump repeatedly warning, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
“It’s pretty depressing to see the president just parroting what he heard on TV the night before, and if he’s going to do that, the very least he could do is pick a better show than Steve Hilton’s The Next Revolution,” Oliver quipped. “Why not go with Below Deck: Sailing Yacht?”
Naturally, the HBO host is not suggesting that Trump should quote Below Deck in his coronavirus press conferences, but he was taking a pot shot at The Next Revolution.
John Oliver’s attack against Steve Hilton seems curious. Is the HBO host jealous that the president is quoting the Fox News host instead of him?
John Oliver has another reason to be jealous of Steve Hilton, however. According to Nielsen Media Research, the Fox News host is schooling him when it comes to ratings. Between December 30, 2019, and April 16, 2020, The Next Revolution had an estimated 1.818 million viewers, twice as many as Last Week Tonight had during the same period (900,000). Hilton smashed Oliver in the ratings over two other periods as well: from February 24 to March 29, the Fox News show got 2.2 million viewers to Oliver’s 941,000; and from March 30 to April 16, Hilton got 1.97 million viewers to Oliver’s 940,000.
As for the oft-repeated claim that Fox News minimized the danger of the coronavirus, it is important to note that left-leaning outlets also claimed that the coronavirus was comparable to influenza. Experts routinely minimized the danger, thanks in part to the Chinese Communist Party lying to the World Health Organization. As for the fear that the “cure” might be worse than the disease, that is entirely rational, given the millions of lost jobs, the delay of routine medical services, and the uncertainty of millions unable to go about their daily lives.
While President Trump has issued conflicting statements about the coronavirus, his administration acted early and decisively against it, issuing travel notices and restricting travel from China in January.
John Oliver can complain all he wants, but that doesn’t make his anti-Trump coronavirus narrative true. It also won’t change the fact that Steve Hilton gets twice as many viewers as he does.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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