Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s desperate—some might say dishonest—bid for reelection has gotten so entertaining that even John Oliver has taken notice.
On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, Oliver seemed to enjoy Villanueva’s latest antics in the final weeks before the June 6 election, particularly that bit where the sheriff said during a press conference that he was investigating Los Angeles Times journo Alene Tchekmedyian in a criminal leak investigation for her reporting on the department’s alleged coverup of an excessive force incident in which a deputy knelt on an inmate’s head for three minutes—and then almost immediately claimed that he never said that.
Flashing a photo of Villanueva in which Oliver judged that he looked “like a potato cowboy,” Oliver said, “It is a damning story about abuse of power and lack of transparency and Villanueva took swift action against those responsible… for everyone finding out about it.”
The HBO host continued, “Okay, when you’re accused of being complicit in a terrible act, being more concerned about who said it than the accusation doesn’t exactly convey innocence. If someone said, ‘John Oliver likes to be called Big Daddy Zazu with the Long, Long Beak around the office,’ and my response was, ‘Look, who said that? Was it Joseph?’ I’m gonna investigate Joseph!’—that would be a little suspicious.”
After reiterating Villanueva’s denials of any wrongdoing, and noting that one of his own former officials says he watched video of the kneeling incident five days after it occurred while Villanueva says eight months later, Oliver noted, “Sweeping things under the carpet seems to be Villanueva’s style, because despite campaigning four years ago as a reformer in an infamously corrupt department, his record since then has not been great.”
Despite a 2019 Inspector General’s report’s finding that, in just two months, officials under Villanueva had canceled 45 administrative investigations into his employees, some of which involved domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual conduct with an inmate, Oliver said, “And he’s not just breaking promises to reform, it seems his whole reelection bid is going to involve going full culture war.”
Oliver then plays a clip in which Villanueva predicts that 2022 is “going to be a referendum on a national disease that’s gonna finally see a cure coming along. Wokeism is on the ropes, let’s put it out of it’s misery.”
“That’s fun, isn’t it?” Oliver asks. “You probably thought that the national disease that he was referring to there was the literal one that’s killed almost a million Americans in two years, or the figurative one that is BTS fever.”
Villanueva’s “pièce de résistance,” Oliver says, is “a new campaign ad which, honestly, may be one of the dumbest things that I have ever seen. I’m going to show you all 30 seconds of it mainly because I cannot think of a single part of it that you don’t need to see.”
He wasn’t talking about Villanueva’s crybaby attack ad against the Times, but rather one featuring a woman rollerblading through a tent city and then various scenes of Angelenos living happy, sunlit lives until they’re encroached upon by a mix of homeless and home-invaders, all to the melodramatic sounds of “Ave Maria”… You can watch it here (via 2UrbanGirls).
“Now, obviously, that is all idiotic,” Oliver says. “From the 1990s rollerblader to the song choice for your California dream ad being ‘Ave Maria’ and not, I don’t know, ‘California Dreamin’,’ to the fact that everyone there is having an absolute ball, including the people experiencing a break-in. I’ve honestly never seen anyone this happy while getting robbed, and I’ve seen Glenn Close at the Oscars eight times.”
Concluding the segment, Oliver notes Villanueva’s campaign slogan, “Let’s stand up to the corruption, let’s fight for ourselves,” adding, “which, given that he’s the one that’s been in charge the last four years, actually seems like a pretty good slogan for anyone running against him.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.