He came in like a wrecking ball.
On Sunday, on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the British comedian proceeded to demolish Trump’s signature campaign initiative: building a 35-foot-high wall along 1,000 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico.
Repeatedly using the presidential candidate’s own policy points against him, Oliver highlighted the impracticalities and absurdities of constructing what he termed “a big, dumb thing that only gets more expensive over time.”
“It’s like getting a pet walrus,” Oliver said. “You think it’s stupid now. Wait until you learn what a bucket of sea cucumbers costs.”
As evidence, the late-night talk show host presented a series of news clips in which the Republican front runner estimated the wall’s construction costs, ranging from $4 billion to $12 billion. “Donald Trump’s margin of error is the entire GDP of Moldova,” noted Oliver.
Then, citing a recent article by The Washington Post, the host fact-checked Trump’s math. According to the report, such a wall would cost:
- $10 billion in concrete
- $5-6 billion for steel columns (including labor)
- $1 billion for concrete footings and foundations
- $2 billion for roads to support the 20-ton trucks that would deliver the materials
- Another 30% for engineering and design management
Estimating the price based on The Washington Post's reporting, Oliver concluded it would cost $25 billion — two- to six-times Trump’s proposed price tag.
And maintenance on the wall is expected to exceed initial construction costs within seven years, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate cited in the segment.
Won't Mexico pay?
From there, Oliver attacked Trump’s campaign promise, “Mexico will pay.” He quoted the country’s treasury secretary who said, “Mexico, under no circumstance, is gong to pay for the wall that Mr. Trump is proposing…” and spotlighted television interviews with two former Mexican presidents who left little doubt about how the proposal is viewed south of the border. “I’m not going to pay for that [expletive] wall!” said Vicente Fox. “He should pay for it.”
Will it stop illegal immigration?
Oliver challenged Trump’s motive to build the wall as a “fortress to stop people and drugs flowing across the border” by pointing out a study showing nearly half of all unauthorized migrants living in the United States entered legally through ports such as airports or border crossings. And he examined how drug dealers commonly use tunnels and catapults — or simply throw bags of drugs over border walls — to smuggle their wares into the country.
How about a waffle iron instead?
The host concluded Last Week Tonight by proposing that the government spend $24 billion to buy every man, woman and child in America a Palmer Waffle Iron instead of constructing the border wall.
“I know what you’re thinking: ‘John, this is a stupid idea.’ But is it really?” Oliver asked. “Yes, obviously it is. But is it significantly stupider than Donald Trump’s wall? Because this waffle iron plan will cost less, it’ll do nearly as much to keep out immigrants and drugs. It won’t harm our relationship with our third largest trading partner. If it is racist, it’s only toward Belgians. And unlike Donald Trump’s wall, this makes [expletive] waffles!”
Watch the entire segment here:
Chris Lee is a former staff writer for Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He covers entertainment, culture and business in Los Angeles.