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Donald Trump (Last Week Tonight)

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"Donald Trump"
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"
John Oliver urges viewers to refer to Donald Trump as "Donald Drumpf"
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 3 (segment)
Presented by John Oliver
Original air date February 28, 2016
Running time 22 minutes
List of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episodes

"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."

Episode description[edit | edit source]

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.[1] 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."[2][3]

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".[2][4][5] He outlines that Trump had lied many times in the past,[2] 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".[6]

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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[2]

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.[9] 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.[8] Discussion of Trump's "short fingers" was later covered by other media,[10][11] 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".[12]

"Make Donald Drumpf Again"[edit | edit source]

Screenshot of a website, showing the request for trademark on the phrase "Drumpf"
Trademark request

In the final portion of the segment, Oliver urges viewers to refer to Trump as "Drumpf", the Trump family's ancestral name.[5] 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".[2]

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.[2]

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,[13][14] but it was rejected.[15] Oliver also released a Google Chrome browser extension called "Drumpfinator" after the segment, which changes all instances of "Trump" to "Drumpf" on webpages.[4] Oliver created the hashtag "#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain" during the segment. He also registered the web domain "", 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.[2] The website sold out of 35,000 of these hats by March 27.[16] In November, shortly after Trump's election, the cap manufacturer filed for bankruptcy.[17]

Reception and aftermath[edit | edit source]

Headshot of comedian John Oliver, wearing a suit and glasses
CNET said John Oliver (pictured in 2014) had "a greater purpose" than "mere satire", which was to influence Americans to vote against Trump.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20] A similar add-on for Mozilla Firefox with the same name had thousands of user downloads.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23][24]

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.[25] 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.[18] 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."[26]

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.[27] 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.[28]

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.[16] By comparison, the previous episode's main segment had a little over four million views on YouTube by that date.[29] By March 8, ten days after the episode's broadcast, the website had sold over 35,000 "Make Donald Drumpf Again" hats, comprising all of the inventory on hand.[30] Other merchandise satirizing Trump had been sold by other retailers as well.[31] 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."[32]

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."[26] Oliver later said that the joke "got out of hand" and never used it on the show again.[33] 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."[34]

Name change timing dispute[edit | edit source]

Black and white image of U.S. Immigration records on a tattered piece of paper. Line 33 mentions "Friedr. Trumpf", age 16, born in "Kallstadt", Germany.
U.S. Immigration records from 1885 mention a "Friedr. Trumpf", age 16, born in Kallstadt, Germany. Frederick Trump, Donald Trump's grandfather, had immigrated to the United States that year.[35][36][37]:23

While there was agreement among commentators that Drumpf was the Trumps' ancestral name, and that neither Donald Trump nor his father were named Drumpf,[25][38][lower-alpha 1] they disagreed on whether the family name was changed in the 17th century or well into the 19th century, when Trump's grandfather Frederick Trump immigrated to the United States.[39] In their 2017 book Trump Revealed, Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher write that it is unknown when the "Trump" name was finalized. They further state that Trump family headstones in Kallstadt—the German village where Trump's grandfather was born—show various spellings of the family name "including Dromb, Drumb, Drumpf, Trum, Tromb, Tromp, Trumpf, and Trumpff".[37]:22

Some commentators stated that the name change happened sometime during Frederick Trump's lifetime, and that he was born as Friedrich Drumpf.[13][40] Gwenda Blair, Trump's longtime biographer, appeared in an interview with Deutsche Welle in 2015, where she stated, "[Donald's] grandfather Friedrich Drumpf came to the United States in 1885" when he was 16 years old and Germans were immigrating to America in large numbers.[40] In September 2015, after the genealogical website released the lineages of several famous families—including the Trump and Astor families—the New York Daily News reported that Frederick Trump had been given the name "Friedrich Drumpf" upon his birth in Germany in 1869.[41] In U.S. immigration records from 1885, Friedrich's name is transcribed as "Friedr. Trumpf", the name under which he was processed when he entered the United States that year.[35][36][37]:23

Other published sources said that the name change occurred in the 17th century. In the 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. She cited that one ancestor, named John Philip Trump, 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.[42] This position was endorsed by The Boston Globe,[43] as well as by Daniel Victor, the New York Times reporter, 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'."[25] Kate Connolly of The Guardian, who visited Kallstadt, referred to Frederick as "Friedrich Trump". She said that the town church's parish register contained multiple versions of the Trump name spanning 500 years, but did not mention the name "Drumpf".[44]

Several sources reported that Friedrich, his father, and his aunt were all named Trump, thus placing the name change before the 18th century. Genealogy organization FamilySearch provided information on Friedrich Trump, listing his father as Johann Ii Trump.[45] A genealogist at Dotdash, which was then called, listed Donald Trump's grandfather as Friederich Trump and great-grandfather as Christian Johannes Trump.[46] In his 2013 book America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation, Joshua Kendall wrote that Frederick's father and aunt, and by extension Donald Trump's great-grandfather and great-grandaunt, were called John Trump and Charlotte Luise Trump, respectively.[47]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. The claim is taken from Gwenda Blair's book The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire (2001), page 26, where it is implied that the surname originates with one Hanns Drumpf, who was recorded in Kallstadt in 1608.[38]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Keri Blakinger (March 21, 2016). "Oliver dumps on Trump's wall plans on 'Last Week Tonight'". Daily News. New York: News Corp. OCLC 9541172. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "John Oliver Demolishes 'Serial Liar' Donald Trump". The Huffington Post. AOL. February 29, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  3. Amanda Taub (March 1, 2016). "The rise of American authoritarianism". Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Marlow Stern (February 29, 2016). "John Oliver Destroys Donald Trump: 'You Are Either a Racist or You Are Pretending to Be'". The Daily Beast. IAC. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Justin Wm. Moyer (February 29, 2016). "John Oliver slams Trump, a.k.a. Donald 'Drumpf,' for 22 brutal minutes". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings LLC. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  6. Sarene Leeds (February 29, 2016). "John Oliver Takes on Donald Trump, Implores America to 'Make Donald Drumpf Again'". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. OCLC 781541372. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  7. Melissa Locker (February 29, 2016). "John Oliver Takes on Donald Trump on Last Week Tonight". Time. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Ryan Reed (February 29, 2016). "Watch John Oliver Annihilate Donald Trump, Re-Brand 'Drumpf'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  9. Sara Hunter Smith (February 29, 2016). "John Oliver Destroys Donald Trump in 'Last Week Tonight' Rant". Inquisitr. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  10. Libby Nelson (March 2, 2016). "Donald Trump's deep insecurity about his "short fingers," explained". Vox. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  11. Libby Nelson (June 17, 2016). ""Tiny hands," the insult that's been driving Donald Trump bonkers since 1988, explained". Vox. Retrieved June 19, 2016. 
  12. "Donald Trump denies knowing anything about people making fun of his 'small fingers'". The Week. The Week Publications. March 1, 2016. ISSN 1533-8304. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "'Drumpf' trademark application filed". World Intellectual Property Review. March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  14. JD Supra. "Primarily Merely a Drumpf". Retrieved March 6, 2016. 
  15. "Trump in second win as rejected 'Drumpf' TM gains no response". World Intellectual Property Review. November 18, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2016. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "John Oliver Sells Out of 'Make Donald Drumpf Again' Caps". The New York Times. March 9, 2016. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Retrieved March 27, 2016. 
  17. Stech, Katy (November 18, 2016). "Manufacturer of 'Make Donald Drumpf Again' Parody Hats Files for Bankruptcy". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 18, 2016. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Chris Matyszczyk (March 2, 2016). "John Oliver slams Trump for 22 minutes, creates new hashtag for him". CNET. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  19. "'Donald Drumpf' Is Beating Rubio and Cruz for Second in Google Searches". The New York Times. March 2, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  20. Tracy Swartz (March 4, 2016). "Donald Drumpf browser extension installed more than 333K times". Chicago Tribune. Tronc. Retrieved March 5, 2016. 
  21. "Drumpfinator: Add-ons for Firefox". Mozilla. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2016. 
  22. Gabe Friedman (March 11, 2016). "'Donald Drumpf' is runner-up in American Jewish Congress presidential poll". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved March 12, 2016. 
  23. John Bonazzo (March 9, 2016). "Wired Called Donald Trump 'Someone With Tiny Hands' in Several Articles". The New York Observer. Retrieved March 12, 2016. 
  24. Alistair Charlton (March 10, 2016). "How Two Wired articles changed Donald Trump's name to 'Someone with Tiny Hands'". International Business Times. Retrieved March 12, 2016. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Daniel Victor (March 2, 2016). "Donald Drumpf: A Funny Label, but Is It Fair". The New York Times. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 S.I. Rosenbaum (March 3, 2016). "John Oliver's 'Donald Drumpf' jokes play on the same ugly xenophobia Trump does". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings, LLC. 
  27. Quinten Plummer (March 5, 2016). "@DeepDrumpf Is An AI-Powered Twitterbot That Tweets Like Donald Trump". Tech Times. Retrieved March 7, 2016. 
  28. Bonnie Burton (March 4, 2016). "Drumpf Twitterbot learns to imitate Trump via deep-learning algorithm". CNET. Retrieved March 4, 2016. The Twitterbot DeepDrumpf takes its name from "Last Week Tonight" host and comedian John Oliver who lambasted Trump on his February 28 show 
  29. Aaron Blake (March 7, 2016). "Forget 'Donald Drumpf.' This new John Oliver segment is well worth a few minutes of your time". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings, LLC. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  30. John Koblin (March 8, 2016). "John Oliver Sells Out of 'Make Donald Drumpf Again' Caps". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  31. Melissa Cruz (March 3, 2016). "Other Amazing Donald Drumpf Merchandise You Can Buy, Because Pissing Off Donald Trump Is Priceless". Bustle. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  32. Brian Stelter (March 30, 2016). "Even John Oliver enjoys a Drumpf bump". CNN. Retrieved March 31, 2016. 
  33. Britton, Luke Morgan (February 7, 2017). "John Oliver compares his ‘Make Donald Drumpf Again’ joke to Radiohead’s ‘Creep’". NME. Retrieved February 7, 2017. 
  34. Hiatt, Brian (February 7, 2017). "John Oliver Takes on the Trump Era: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 20, 2017. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 Widmer, Ted (October 1, 2016). "An Immigrant Named Trump". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  36. 36.0 36.1 Bump, Philip (August 3, 2017). "Under Trump's new immigration rule, his own grandfather likely wouldn't have gotten in". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Kranish, Michael; Fisher, Marc (January 10, 2017). Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781501156526. OCLC 965135878. Archived from the original on September 24, 2017. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 Locker, Melissa. "John Oliver Takes on Donald Trump On Last Week Tonight". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Archived from the original on March 27, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  39. "¿Quién es Donald J Drumpf y por qué genera tanta controversia en EE.UU.?" [Who is Donald J Drumpf and why does he generate so much controversy in the US?] (in Spanish). BBC Mundo. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 "What Donald Trump learned from his German grandpa Friedrich Drumpf". Deutsche Welle. September 9, 2015. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2017. 
  41. Adams Otis, Ginger (September 2, 2015). "Trump, Astor and other wealthy NYC families' wills revealed". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on June 21, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2017. 
  42. Blair, Gwenda (2001). The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a Presidential Candidate. Simon and Schuster. pp. 26–27. ISBN 9781501139369. OCLC 944246546. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  43. Peterson, Britt (September 9, 2015). "Why Donald Trump trumps Donald Drumpf". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  44. Connolly, Kate (January 29, 2016). "Kallstadt, Germany: on the trail of 'the Donald' in the Trump ancestral home". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016. 
  45. Friedrich Trump (database). Deutschland Geburten und Taufen. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016 – via FamilySearch. 
  46. Powell, Kimberly (March 3, 2017). "Ancestry of Donald Trump – Great Grandparents". IAC. Archived from the original on March 11, 2016. Retrieved September 10, 2017. 
  47. Kendall, Joshua (2013). "America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation". Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 9781455502363. OCLC 824608989. Archived from the original on April 29, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2016 – via Google Books. John Henry Heinz's mother was Charlotte Luise Trump, a sister of the Donald's great-grandfather, John Trump. 

External links[edit | edit source]