"None of this should be surprising": John Oliver calls out GOP "cancel culture" hypocrisy

Conservatives "trying to ban any speech they don’t like" but "when it’s theirs, it can be mandated by law"

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published June 24, 2024 11:38AM (EDT)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Courtesy of HBO)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Courtesy of HBO)

John Oliver on Sunday's edition of "Last Week Tonight"  called out the latest chapter of the culture war Republicans are waging on public schools.

Oliver noted that Louisiana last week became the first state to require the Ten Commandments be displayed in public classrooms "from kindergarten to publicly funded universities," highlighting the growing trend of Republicans pushing Christian ideology into public education. Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed the bill into law last Wednesday, saying, "If you want to respect the rule of law, you gotta start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses."

Oliver retorted "First: Moses was not the original lawgiver. That would be—say it with me—Ur-Nammu, king of the ancient Sumerian third dynasty of Ur, that’s right. It’s something we all know. But more importantly, it’s true: Louisiana will now require the Ten Commandments be displayed in all public classrooms, even kindergartens. Which is absurd."

"Kindergarteners don’t need 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife' next to their cubbies. That’s not a thing they do. And even if they did, who cares? They’re five. If you’re that worried about your wife running off with a five-year-old, your marriage has problems no god can fix," Oliver joked.

The host also pointed out that behind the governor, "one of the kids collapsed and Landry never once turns around to see what’s going on."

"But that’s a perfect encapsulation of the Republican Party today—loudly pretending to care about the well-being of children while completely ignoring the literal well-being of a child," Oliver stated.

The host added that the bill's sponsor also had no concerns about how the new law would affect non-Christian or Jewish students.

"You don’t believe this alienates students who are not Christian or Jewish?" an opposing lawmaker questioned Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton.

"No ma’am, I don’t. This is about a moral code that our country was founded upon and they can simply turn their heads, I suppose," Horton responded.

Oliver replied: "Yeah, they can simply turn their heads, you suppose. You know, the thing the governor of Louisiana seems completely incapable of doing when a child falls right behind him."

The host noted that the "clearly unconstitutional" law is already facing a lawsuit threat from the ACLU. "And you’d think they’d stand a good chance to win—especially as Kentucky actually passed a similar law decades ago, only for it to be struck down by the Supreme Court in 1980. But the truth is, as this constitutional expert points out, this time could be different," he said.

While the the Supreme Court's precedent held a similar law as unconstitutional, "precedent isn’t what it used to be" given the political leanings of the current court, an expert said in a clip on the show.

We need your help to stay independent

"Yeah, that’s putting it mildly. Precedent used to mean justices had to have a really good reason to reverse course on settled law, and one better than just, 'My billionaire friends said they’d take me to Barbados next time,'" Oliver said in an apparent reference to Justice Clarence Thomas.

This isn't the only battle schools have faced in the last several years, from book banning, banning trans students from using gender-affirming bathrooms and now a new conflict over public displays of symbols in Tennessee, Florida and Utah has led to the states all introducing bills to ban Pride flags in schools.

"None of this should be surprising, conservatives love to rail against 'cancel culture' while trying to ban any speech they don’t like. So when it’s someone else’s symbol, it’s an affront that needs to be burned or banned, but when it’s theirs, it can be mandated by law, and anyone who doesn’t like it can just turn their head and not look," Oliver concluded.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs on Sundays at 11 p.m. ET on Max.

By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

MORE FROM Nardos Haile

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Culture Wars John Oliver Last Week Tonight