Donald Trump (Last Week Tonight)
|Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode|
|Comedian John Oliver atop a stage, wearing a suit and holding a microphone; in the background is the text "Drumpf"|
Episode 3 (segment)
|Presented by||John Oliver|
|Original air date||February 28, 2016|
|Running time||22 minutes|
"Donald Trump" is a segment of the HBO news satire series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, devoted to Donald Trump, who later became the President of the United States. It was first aired on February 28, 2016, as part of the third episode of the third season, when Trump was the frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination for the presidency. During the 22-minute segment, comedian John Oliver discusses Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and his career in business, outlining his campaign rhetoric, varying political positions and failed business ventures. He also says the Trump family name was changed at one point from the ancestral name "Drumpf".
The segment, which is the show's most viewed to date, popularized the term "Donald Drumpf" – which as Oliver stated, was coined with the intent to uncouple the grandeur of the last name so Trump's supporters would be able to better acknowledge his political and entrepreneurial flaws, and started a campaign urging viewers to "Make Donald Drumpf Again" – a play on Trump's own campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again". To date, this is the only episode in which Oliver has described Trump explicitly as "Drumpf."
President of the United States
The 22-minute segment about Donald Trump was delivered by John Oliver on February 28, 2016, during the third episode of the third season of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. At the start of the episode's main segment, Oliver introduces the topic of Trump's presidential campaign by referring to it and his darkhorse popularity among Republican voters and supporters who traditionally did not vote in past Presidential elections as "America's back mole", saying "It may have seemed harmless a year ago, but now that it's become frighteningly bigger, it's no longer wise to ignore it."
After summarizing his "unpredictable and entertaining" style and acknowledging his appeal to voters disenchanted with the American political establishment, Oliver then criticizes Trump as a "serial liar". He outlines that Trump had lied many times in the past, has made dubious and as of yet unsubstantiated claims regarding his net worth and had "a string of broken business ventures [including some of his real estate properties] and the support of a former Klan leader David Duke, who he can't decide whether or not to condemn".
Oliver mentions that Trump claimed to have declined an invitation to appear on Last Week Tonight despite never having been invited by Oliver or his show's producers; that Trump was not self-funding his 2016 presidential campaign, despite Trump having said otherwise; that Trump University misled people, since it was not a university; that despite Trump's statement to the contrary, the related lawsuits were still pending; and that in an interview in the 2003 documentary Born Rich, Trump's daughter Ivanka had said that her father once portrayed himself as poorer than a homeless person.
The comedian also says that Trump had failed to repudiate Duke in interviews with various Sunday morning talk shows on the day of the episode's broadcast, after Duke advocated his white supremacist supporters the previous week to endorse Trump due to the Republican candidate's campaign rhetoric. Such rhetoric has been criticized since Trump's July 2015 campaign announcement as promoting bigotry towards Hispanics (regarding his plan to reform the American immigration system, specifically by stemming illegal immigration across the Mexico–United States border through the construction of a border wall, and his statement in his introductory campaign speech suggesting that Mexico was importing drug dealers and criminals into the U.S.) and Muslims (in which Trump advocated a ban on Muslims seeking to enter the United States following a series of terror attacks perpetrated by members and sympathizers of ISIS). Oliver also criticizes Trump's denial that he knew who David Duke was, citing a 2000 NBC News interview in which Trump called Duke "a bigot [and] a racist," noting that having given such an answer despite the contradiction, Trump "is either racist or [is] pretending to be, and at some point, there's no difference there". In total, according to Oliver, Trump was lying three-fourths (76%) of the time, citing a PolitiFact study of the statements made by Trump since he launched his Presidential campaign. He calls Trump inconsistent in the political views that he expressed during and prior to his campaign, saying that "he's been pro choice and pro-life; he's been for and against assault weapon bans; [and] in favor of both bringing in Syrian refugees and deporting them out of the country," as well as having advocated (in a phone-in interview on Fox & Friends) killing families of suspected terrorists as part of his strategy to defeat ISIS, which would constitute a war crime under the laws of the Geneva Conventions.
Oliver states that Trump had frequently threatened to file lawsuits against various people, but had never actually filed these lawsuits, and has settled lawsuits filed against him about his never-completed condominium developments despite Trump's claim that he never settles any of his legal disputes. He says that Trump was also sensitive about the size of his fingers due to a 1988 Spy feature piece that criticized him as a "short-fingered vulgarian," resulting in him sending the now-defunct magazine's editor, E. Graydon Carter (who discussed the story in a November 2015 Vanity Fair article), envelopes enclosed with a photo of Trump at various times in subsequent years that highlighted his fingers in a circular gold Sharpie marking to dispute the piece's claims. Discussion of Trump's "short fingers" was later covered by other media, but in a Twitter post two days after the segment's original broadcast, Trump said that he was not aware that people knew about his "short fingers".
"Make Donald Drumpf Again"
In the final portion of the segment, Oliver urges viewers to refer to Trump as "Drumpf", the Trump family's ancestral name. Oliver pointed out earlier in the piece that Trump had repeatedly mocked Jewish-American comedian Jon Stewart by referring to him as "Jonathan Leibowitz", the comedian's birth name. Oliver, an alumnus of Stewart's Daily Show, justified the "Drumpf" epithet by insisting, paraphrasing Trump's mockery of Stewart in a May 2013 Twitter post (which Trump later denied doing), "[Trump] should be proud of his heritage!" Oliver opines that this name is much more reflective of Trump's true nature, and says that if viewers wanted to vote for "the charismatic guy promising to make America great again", they should "stop and take a moment to imagine how [they] would feel if [they] just met a guy named Donald Drumpf".
Furthermore, after noting the "powerful" and "almost onomatopoeic" connotation that some people have of the Trump surname, he says of the ancestral name, "Drumpf is much less magical. It's the sound produced when a morbidly obese pigeon flies into the window of a foreclosed Old Navy. ... It's the sound of a bottle of store-brand root beer falling off the shelf in a gas station minimart." The segment closes with Oliver walking toward a lighted "DRUMPF" sign, informing those watching the segment who are considering voting for Trump, "Don't vote for him because he tells it like it is. He's a bullshit artist. Don't vote for him because he's tough. He's a baby, with even smaller fingers. Don't vote for him because he's a builder. He's more of a shitty lifestyle brand." Oliver then challenges Trump to sue him over the segment.
A trademark application for the word "Drumpf" was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office by a company called Drumpf Industries, an LLC based in Delaware; Oliver attempted to trademark that term, but it was rejected. Oliver also released a Google Chrome browser extension called "Drumpfinator" after the segment, which changes all instances of "Trump" to "Drumpf" on webpages. Oliver created the hashtag "#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain" during the segment. He also registered the web domain "donaldjdrumpf.com", which in addition to providing free downloads of the "Drumpfinator" Chrome extension, sold baseball caps with the slogan "Make Donald Drumpf Again," modeled after Trump's own "Make America Great Again" hat. The website sold out of 35,000 of these hats by March 27. In November, shortly after Trump's election, the cap manufacturer filed for bankruptcy.
Reception and aftermath
Immediately after the segment had aired, web searches for "Donald Drumpf" (a term mentioned in the segment) went viral. By March 1, on which the "Super Tuesday" primaries were held, Google Searches for "Donald Drumpf" had surpassed those for "Ted Cruz" and "Marco Rubio," two of Trump's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.
By March 4, six days after the segment's air date, the "Drumpfinator" Chrome extension had received over 333,800 downloads and 5,800 reviews. A similar add-on for Mozilla Firefox with the same name had thousands of user downloads. The extensions resulted in multiple outlets accidentally replacing Trump's name. The American Jewish Congress announced the results of a poll of their members that referred to the candidate as "Donald Drumpf", which they later acknowledged was an accident caused by someone's use of the extension. Wired magazine published multiple articles replacing Trump's name with the phrase "Someone with Tiny Hands" in reference to the "Short-Fingered Vulgarian" meme, a result of another Chrome extension.
Reviewing the segment, Daniel Victor of The New York Times said "Donald Drumpf" was "a funny label", but stated that "some fairness might be in order". Victor stated that the Trump family had changed its name in the 17th century, and pointed out that many American entertainers and politicians, including two presidents (Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford) and a rival presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton), had changed their names. CNET's Chris Matyszczyk called the segment a "lengthy excoriation" of Trump, and commented that Oliver had "a greater purpose" than "mere satire", which was to influence Americans to care enough to vote against Trump. S.I. Rosenbaum, a freelance journalist with The Washington Post, was more critical, saying that making fun of foreign names "traffics in the very xenophobia that is Trump's sick stock in trade". Rosenbaum explained that: "We have a long history of this sort of thing in this country of immigrants—bestowing foreign-sounding names to imply that the target isn't really an American."
DeepDrumpf, which received its namesake from Oliver's segment, is a Twitterbot created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which uses neural network technology and posts tweets in an imitation of Trump. "The algorithm essentially learns an underlying structure from all the data it gets, and then comes up with different combinations of the data that reflect the structure that it was taught," says the bot's creator. He stated that if there were more data available, or even all the data that Facebook's AI system can analyze, then the neural network would be better able to mimic the presidential candidate.
Within eight days of the original broadcast, the YouTube video of the segment had surpassed 19 million views, making it Oliver's most watched segment. By comparison, the previous episode's main segment had a little over four million views on YouTube by that date. By March 8, ten days after the episode's broadcast, the donaldjdrumpf.com website had sold over 35,000 "Make Donald Drumpf Again" hats, comprising all of the inventory on hand. Other merchandise satirizing Trump had been sold by other retailers as well. By the end of March, the segment had been viewed 23.3 million times on YouTube and 62 million times on Facebook, making its viewership "a record for any piece of HBO content."
One Washington Post writer criticized Oliver's phrase as xenophobic toward German Americans and other immigrant groups who anglicized their names upon immigration, saying that the phrase "traffics in the very xenophobia that is Trump’s sick stock in trade." Oliver later said that the joke "got out of hand" and never used it on the show again. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Oliver said, "That joke became old for us very quickly. There's a reason we didn't use it again. It really is the song I skip past. It's 'Creep.' It's a good song, Thom Yorke! It was a good song when he wrote it."
Name change timing dispute
While there was agreement among commentators that Drumpf was Trump's ancestral name, and that neither Donald Trump nor his father were named Drumpf,[lower-alpha 1] they disagreed on whether the family name was changed in the 17th century or well into the 19th century, in 1885. Kim LaCapria of Snopes.com, a popular rumor-debunking website, reported that Drumpf was indeed the original family name, but the writers at Snopes were unable to determine what year the name was changed to Trump.
Some commentators stated that the name change happened in 1885, and that Donald Trump's grandfather, Frederick Trump, was formerly named Friedrich Drumpf. However, other published sources said that the name change occurred in the 17th century. In her 2015 book The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a Presidential Candidate (an excerpt from which the program used to cite the ancestral name disclosure for the segment), biographer Gwenda Blair wrote that the Trumps' family name was changed during the Thirty Years' War, as evidenced by the name of John Philip Trump, who lived in the 17th century. Blair also wrote that Frederick Trump's original name was Friedrich Trump, and his father, born in the 19th century, was Johannes Trump. This position was endorsed by The Boston Globe, as well as by Daniel Victor, a reporter for The New York Times who wrote, "Despite mistaken impressions, Mr. Trump and his recent relatives had nothing to do with the surname change. Mr. Oliver himself was careful to refer to a 'prescient ancestor.'" Kate Connolly of The Guardian – who visited Kallstadt, the German village where Trump's grandfather was born – referred to Frederick as "Friedrich Trump", saying that "the Trump family name has had various permutations over the past five hundred years, according to the local church register"; she did not mention the name "Drumpf", however.
Several sources reported that Friedrich, his father, and his aunt were all named Trump, thus placing the name change to before the 18th century. For instance, genealogy organization FamilySearch provided information on Friedrich Trump, listing his father as Johann Ii Trump, while a genealogist at About.com listed Donald Trump's grandfather as Friederich Trump and great-grandfather as Christian Johannes Trump. In his 2013 book America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation, Joshua Kendall wrote that Donald Trump's great-grandfather and great-grandaunt (Frederick's father and aunt) were called John Trump and Charlotte Luise Trump, respectively.
- The claim is taken from Gwenda Blair, The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire (2001), p. 26, where it is implied that the surname originates with one Hanns Drumpf recorded in Kallstadt in 1608.
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The Twitterbot DeepDrumpf takes its name from "Last Week Tonight" host and comedian John Oliver who lambasted Trump on his February 28 show
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John Henry Heinz's mother was Charlotte Luise Trump, a sister of the Donald's great-grandfather, John Trump