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John Oliver Opens an Honest Conversation About Coal and Miners on Last Week Tonight

Donald Trump often talks about restoring the coal industry and being on the side of coal miners, but how true are his assertions? Not just the totally false brag that his presidency created 50,000 new mining jobs (it’s actually 1,300), but the fact that’s he’s constantly saying he has their best interests at heart?

A deep look into the reality of the coal industry was the main story for Last Week Tonight, and it’s one that John Oliver handles with nuance and full acknowledgement of how coal is central to many communities. The host dives into the much-needed distinction between coal, coal miners, and coal companies by looking at how those interests often collide.

For instance, he notes that while coal CEOs often take on an “Us vs. Them” rhetoric, some like Bob Murray of Murray Energy don’t really appear to be on the side of their employees. As a result of the segment, Oliver confesses that the studio received a cease and desist letter from Murray Energy with threat of litigation, a first for the show. Oliver neither ceases nor desists, and it is a thing of beauty.

Oliver also points to how Obama, often blamed for the decline of coal jobs, had less impact in comparison to other factors like machinery replacing miners and the rise of alternative energies. Most striking, however, is the show’s empathy for the miners as he points out that statistics likely aren’t comforting at all coming from a British talk show host and green jobs being created by alternative energies aren’t appearing in coal communities. His point isn’t so much a full-on drag of Trump as it is a call for recognizing the actual challenges and obstacles facing coal miners:

“Trumps needs to stop lying to coal miners, we all do. Stop telling them that their jobs are all coming back when they’re not, stop telling them that coal is clean when it isn’t, and stop pretending that this isn’t an industry in the middle of a difficult and painful, albeit necessary, transition. An honest conversation about coal and its miners needs to be had and we should neither cease nor desist from having it.”

Still, it’s Last Week Tonight so Oliver ends by taunting Murray Energy’s founding myth which features a conversation with a squirrel. While Oliver doesn’t quite buy this, he’s happy to lend a hand by bringing out gigantic squirrel Mr. Nutterbutter for a special ending message.

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