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John Oliver: The Republican convention was a 'four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over fact'

John Oliver: The Republican convention was a 'four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over fact'
John Oliver skewers Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention on "Last Week Tonight" (YouTube)

After several weeks off the air, John Oliver delivered a withering critique of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Sunday's "Last Week Tonight."

He described the event, marred by Melania Trump's plagiarism scandal, Sen. Ted Cruz's non-endorsement and no-shows of prominent Republicans in favor of appearances by Z-list celebrities — Rachel from "The Real World," anyone? — as a "mismanaged … show" that undermined Donald Trump's claims of being a skilled manager.

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According to Oliver, the most illuminating moment of the convention came from an unexpected source: former underwear model and soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., who told a reporter that he "has the right to believe" that President Obama is a Muslim, despite all evidence to the contrary.

"What's truly revealing is his implication that believing something to be true is the same as it being true," Oliver said. "If anything, that was the theme of the Republican Convention this week. It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over fact."

Oliver cut to a reel of Republican politicians — and Scott Baio — talking about how Americans "feel" about subjects like the economy and the violent crime rate.

"This focus on feelings reached its apex in Donald Trump's acceptance speech, which was light on concrete policy but heavy on provoking strong emotions," said Oliver, noting that the candidate's claims about surging crime, illegal immigration and unemployment are not supported by the facts.

"Yet, frighteningly, when reporters started to point that out, it didn't seem to matter."

After playing a clip of Trump supporter and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who argued that what people feel is more important than statistics from the FBI showing a steady decline in crime over the past 25 years, Oliver urged his viewers to seriously consider the implications.

"I think we can all agree that candidates can create feelings in people," he said. "What Gingrich is saying is that feelings are as valid as facts. So by the transitive property, candidates can create facts, which is terrifying, because that means someone like Donald Trump can create his own reality."

Oliver described Trump's 75-minute acceptance speech as a "symphony of bile and race-baiting" that relied on "the message of every strongman ever: The world is dangerous and only I can make you safe."

But there have been warnings, Oliver argued, like the one his team uncovered in a DVD extra from the first season of "The Apprentice." In the music video, Trump drones "This is a dictatorship, and I'm the dictator. There's no voting, there's no jury" over a cheesy synthesizer beat.

Oliver ended with another warning: "Unless we're careful, by this time next year, this could be America's new national anthem."

(We'll add our own: The video below contains profanities.)

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