Last Week Tonight Video: John Oliver Rips the Confederate Flag to Shreds

To be clear, John Oliver didn’t literally tear apart a Confederate flag during Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, but he did make it pretty clear how he feels about the ol’ Stars and Bars.

In response to South Carolina still flying the antiquated symbol outside of its capitol building — even after nine African-American churchgoers were senselessly gunned down by a white assailant this past week — Oliver had this to say:

The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world. … Oh, I’m sorry, is that a Confederate flag on your belt, LeAnne? Thanks for coming in, but the nanny position has already been filled.


As for the states still (proudly?) flying the Confederate flag, Oliver was kind enough to lay out a step-by-step plan for removing the glorified rag:

Now look, South Carolina, and indeed any state that flies this flag — even as part of their actual state flag, Mississippi (holy s–t!) — now might be a great time out of respect, not just for the events of this week but for the events of the past several centuries … to lower the flag down to half-staff. And then, when it’s at half-staff, why don’t you keep lowering it all the way down? And once you’re holding it in your hands, take it off the flagpole completely, fold it — or don’t bother — put it in a flag, label it ‘bad flag’ and put it somewhere no one can see it.


Hit PLAY on Oliver’s rant above, then drop a comment with your own take below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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56 Comments
  1. Ron says:

    I really love John Oliver. I applauded him several times during this segment on his show last night. I don’t understand why some people still champion the flying of this flag at a state capitol–or anywhere for that matter. I don’t understand why some politicians still don’t speak out for its removal. Regardless of what some people think of its history, the meaning of symbols change. For example, the swastika wasn’t always a symbol of hate. It was a symbol of sacredness and peace in Eastern religions. Then the Nazi’s adopted it and changed its meaning. That adopted meaning is what we now associate with the swastika. The same is true for this flag. It’s current symbol is one of hate, segregation, and oppression. The only place this flag should be displayed is in a museum. Not proudly flying over a city.

    • D. says:

      You people see it as a symbol of hate because a bunch of racist idiots took it as their symbol but for many of us in the south we see it as a symbol of our heritage, not a symbol of hate or racism but as a symbol of our fierce independence, our rebel spirit and deep roots. my ancestors have been here since before the revolutionary war and I’m as proud of them as I am of the ones that fought for the confederacy. Many of the people that fought in the war didn’t on slave and fought for state rights over big government I know they don’t teach that but it’s true. Slavery was evil and should never have happened no one should have been enslaved, ever.

      • Joey says:

        No, you don’t get it. Its a symbol of a racist regime in the history of this country. You don’t see it that way, but for a vast majority of the country, we do. Do you think that saying the n-word is racist? Most of the country does, but there are people, especially from what seems to be your neck of the woods, that doesn’t.

        • your heritage is a symbol of racism, pure and simple: whereas among your “states rights” was the ability to enslave human beings, to work them mercilessly, to treat them as sub-human, this is the definition of ‘racism’ whether your particular descendants owned slaves or didn’t. To have fought valiantly to preserve the Confederacy and the fact that it stood firm for the right to buy, sell and own people of color, is a testament to the blind acceptance of man’s inhumanity towards man and no reflection of bravery or courage. It’s like calling the soldiers who fought and died for the Nazi cause brave men of conviction, stalwartly defending the Reich. Bleeding and dying for a cause, be it a homeland or set of principles, does not make that an automatic source to be proud of if the underlying motives were a smokescreen for the perpetuation of crimes against humanity, of which enslaving, torturing and robbing others of their human dignity are at the top of the list.

        • I meant it to be a reply to D, the proud descendant of the Confederacy. It’s my first post here and my hang-glider mistakenly landed on you. apologies.

          • Joey says:

            Sometimes its easy to get comments on this site a bit confused. Thanks for clarifying. :)

            For the record, I do agree with everything you said above.

      • PL says:

        This goes directly to Ron’s point though (or as you so delightfully phrase it, “you people”). It doesn’t matter that the flag might be associated with other things; you don’t see Eastern religions or others continuing to use the swastika. Why? Because the majority of people immediately associate it with its later use by the Nazis. Same logic applies here.

        • Joey says:

          I also believe that one of the divisions of the Finnish military also used to use the swastika on their flag. Guess when they stopped using it. Oh, that’s right. 1945.

        • Bob Backus says:

          The flag is the flag of a US enemy that killed Americans, it should be dumped. BUT, you are wrong. There are many in Eastern religions who still use the swastika. In fact, the use is growing, per a BBC Radio 4 show about it. It is very widely used. The difference is the swastika is hundreds of years old, seen in many different societies, and the flag was specifically designed as an enemy flag to the United States to be flown in battle when killing Americans.

        • Lisa Mortini says:

          PL: that’s not quite true though. The “swastika” featured in Asia is turned in a different way and can still be found a plenty right now across Korea and India for instance. I was driven all across North India in a car with a painted one on its hood. No Westerner who’s a tad educated will take offence as it is a symbol of peace that came long before the Nazi abused it. Now the confederate flag is a different story all together…

      • Susannah says:

        A symbol of treason? Of trying to tear the U.S. apart? Why should it be on a U.S. state capitol building?

      • Bob Backus says:

        I truly love this “heritage” argument. Funny how your heritage only includes the moment in time when you became an enemy to the United States and killed Americans. Or, am I wrong, you also fly the UK flag and the Spanish flag (in some areas) because they are your heritage too? It’s the flag of a US enemy as much as the British flag is, and yet the British one has more right to be flown her since we were British longer. I’m in Georgia and you won’t catch me ever flying the flag of a US enemy.

      • D, I have compassion for you because I believe you are sincere when you say slavery was evil and should not have happened but your type of stubborn disassociation of the benign ( states rights) with the malignant (slavery) is more dangerous than the entire skinhead movement in total and al their “I Love Adolph” tee-shirts combined. This is because you are among the unseen underbelly of “deniers” everywhere who refuse to use logic and facts in their thought process but rather cling to self-serving tales, anecdotal nonsense and the like to perpetuate what they want to be “truth” and fight tooth and nail what is simple and easily proven truth. In this way, society is harmed by the intolerant, the regressive, the ignorant, the misguided beliefs that influence voting on important issues that come before us and that desperately need logical, thoughtful, responsible, comprehensive, educated and enlightened judgment; at least some of these and D, I’m afraid your type of “sincerity” is not a quality at all helpful in a quest for the betterment of our society.

        • I’ve never met you but I like you. Your voice and understanding are so important and I hope that you use your voice elsewhere as well, because it could do a lot of good. Wonderful posts.

          • Thank you Michael. I see a crying need for action, less so for words. In the South Sudan children are being mutilated, violated and murdered by the droves; indigenous people are killing one another in civil strife that no outsiders have ever matched. Only three words are necessary: STOP IT NOW. What’s needed most are pictures– a constant flow– and responsive reporting on the atrocities everywhere on the globe and non stop messaging to the United Nations and every country in the world that claims to stand for human rights.
            There, I’ve said my piece.

          • murley says:

            I agree. I agree with the message Natalie is articulating but also with your comment about the way she expresses herself. She spoke to D with such compassion and in a way so as to educate and inform, not deride and humiliate. I wish so much that everyone would treat each other this way when addressing them, especially on the Internet! Dare to dream…

      • Melora says:

        Germany has banned the Swastika. Thats integrity. If the South wants to be taken seriously, they need to get rid of every racist symbol that exists and stop being so damn bitter that the North won the civil war

      • Karen Pellegrino says:

        Then have a flag with a picture of your ancestors in their military uniform made and fly that over your own house! That should not be offensive to anyone, unless you have a relative that hated that particular ancestor. However, the confederate flag is offensive to just about the rest of the world, so please ask your relatives and congressperson to take the darn thing out back and bury it with the ancestors. But, of course, give it a decent burial and eulogy if that would make you feel better.

      • Angela says:

        Aren’t there better, more current and modern ways to support your part of the country’s fierce independence, deep roots, and rebellious spirit? Flying a flag that most people are not going to look at in a positive light doesn’t sound like the best way to do that to me. Even if people don’t focus on the racial connection to it, it’s still a symbol of a time when part of the country decided to secede and tear the nation apart even further, and that doesn’t sound like something worth honoring, either.

      • R says:

        You are absolutely correct. People that see the flag as racist intentionality choose to do so. Mo one one and I mean no one has,the right to tell me or anyone else what the flag means to me or them for that matter. I’m glad you d]omega up and td the truth. Thank you.

      • R says:

        Thanks for. posting that. You told jt like it is. Those that see the flag as racist do so Intentionally. Tbey are the ones spewing hatred and racism. No one and I mean no one has the right to tell anyone what the flag means to me or them for that matter. Hateing on the flag is not only disrespectful but is still a form of hate !!!

  2. Susannah says:

    I love John Oliver, he has a wonderful way of getting to the point quickly and making it so much fun to watch! Shouldn’t the Confderate flag be removed, not just for its racial insensitivity but wasn’t it the symbol of a seditious movement? Why should a flag fly on a U.S. State Captiol when that flag was a symbol of tearing the U.S. apart? Isn’t it sympathizing with a treasonous cause?

  3. Jane says:

    I am also from the South. Have been here for several generations. Many of us would gladly have the flag remove from every public place, except museums. We understand why it would be seen as offensive. Whether the war was fought over slavery, states’ rights, or other economic reasons the flag is widely seen as a symbol of oppression and, like the swastika, has become repulsive to most of the world. While history should never be forgotten, there comes a time when continuing to tie yourself to such symbols becomes less about pride or heritage and more about refusing to move forward to try and make a better future for all.

    • Bob Backus says:

      I agree with most of what you say, but please don’t compare it to the swastika. They aren’t the same, and just because white people have stopped seeing it or are offended by it, doesn’t mean that they aren’t widely used, and are growingly used in the “Eastern religions”. It hasn’t disappeared and there was a BBC Radio 4 show about its growing use in India etc (in it’s original meaning not as Neo-nazis) So it weakens you’re argument if you compare it to the swastika because although it’s really doubtful that you’ll ever get an educated defender of the flag- you never know there might be one idiot out there that know this. Just trying to help you out if you are as passionate about getting rid of this flag as I am.

      • Ron says:

        I’m sure my logic could be challenged, but I have to slightly disagree because I think we can compare it to the swastika. You are right that it is still used in certain Eastern cultures and religions. But it was never seen as a symbol of hate and oppression there, and they were using it long before it was seen that way. The place where it came to stand in for that (namely, Germany) no longer proudly broadcasts the swastika as a symbol of “pride” or “heritage.” It’s about doing away with a symbol in the place where it stands for hatred, and the confederate flag stands for hatred in the U.S. If Germany can rid themselves of their symbol of hatred, we should be able to also. But all of this to say that I think we can link the two, but to your valid points, we need to be extremely articulate and thorough in how we link the two.

        • ? says:

          The swastika is something different entirely (although the argument you make here comparing it with the Confederate flag is valid). It is an ancient, beautiful symbol that was co-opted by the Nazis. If we allow it die out because of them, in a way, they win. If we keep using it in its original way I can see a day in the future where it’s no longer immediately associated with them people’s minds. And personally, I’d like to see that day.

          • To “? : You can’t put the milk back in the cow. Before the cross became a symbol for Christianity, it may have had a life as something to stick in the ground and hang things on or may even have been used by some culture for one symbolic reason or another. However, after Jesus’ death, the cross became a singular icon always and forever linked to him and nowhere would it adorn a person, place or thing that it would not have absolute reference to Jesus Christ.

    • Sheila says:

      I agree, Jane. I am originally from the deep South. That flag needs to be only in a museum.

  4. Angela says:

    LOVED this rant. Loved it. That whole thing about the flag being fixed to its position and needing a freaking vote to be taken down is absolutely absurd (the “3/5ths” line was a good dig). How does the state government not realize the insanity of that?
    It’s 2015. There’s some crap from our country’s past we desperately need to let go of, and the Confederate flag is definitely an example of that. Anyone who still thinks that’s something that needs to be flown in this day and age is just…yeah. I don’t get it.
    It’s a strange contradiction, too, because so many of the people who see no problem with the flag being flown are also the same ones who’ll talk about how great America is and how patriotic they are…all while they support letting a flag that was a symbol of part of the country splitting away continue to fly. Go figure.

    • Good post, Angela. It’s all so passive/aggressive, isn’t it? They get to grin like the Cheshire Cat–“Oh, this ‘ol thing it ain’t nothin’ Just our way of celebratin’ our heritage,” while they get to revel in their glorious past of people “knowing their place” and the good ol’ days on those fine plantations.!

      • Angela says:

        Thanks, and I second the comments from others who’ve praised your posts in this comment section, too :). You’ve made some excellent points as well.
        It’s very weirdly passive-aggressive, yes. Perfect description. I don’t understand the heritage argument people come up with. Wouldn’t it be better for the South to focus on praising great, notable people who came from their region that wound up doing a lot of really good things for the country? Notable authors, musicians, religious figures (I’m not very religious, personally, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great people who’ve done positive things for religion), etc.? Or celebrate the odd, unique, fun things that you can get and find only in that part of the country? That’d be a much better way to honor what makes the South so great and special, I’d think.
        I saw a news headline earlier today that stated that the governor of South Carolina has come out as saying the flag should be taken down, so that’s a pleasant surprise. It’ll be interesting to see how the areas that still fly the flag in that part of the country handle things going forward (Mississippi, your turn next…).

        • Yes, I agree. I think the tide is turning and that those who continue to wrap themselves in the Confederate flag will encounter a growing distaste for the symbol even among their own. It’s not unlike the removal of the COLORED and WHITE signs at water fountains, bathrooms, and other public places after those indignities finally ran headlong into the same growing distaste for symbols of racism. Good, thoughtful posts here; a testament, I guess, to the quality individuals who watch John Oliver! LOL

          • Angela says:

            I hope so :). Great point with the water fountains, too-I definitely think as time goes on and there’s more and more distance in time from the Civil War we’ll just look back on this stuff as really, REALLY stupid parts of our past that we were smart to eventually do away with.
            I’m very pleased at the comments here, too, considering how political discussions often tend to turn out online :/. I fully agree it says a lot about the people who watch Oliver’s show, too. I’m so, so glad HBO gave him this weekly series. With Colbert’s show gone and Stewart leaving “The Daily Show” soon, Oliver’s filling the void quite nicely :D. And it’s just cool to see John Oliver getting success in his own right, ’cause he’s awesome.

  5. HAP says:

    How about we let the old Confederacy secede again? Not only can they all fly the damned symbol of hate, but the rest of the US would be so much better off without all the tea baggers and religious nut who are trying to ruin this country.

  6. Evan says:

    We just have to remember among all this: The Duke Boys and the General Lee are STILL ALLOWED!

  7. AngelWasHere says:

    Haha I love this! So funny, but so very right!

  8. Robby says:

    Once again TV Line devels into poltical territory! The editors of this site thinking that only other liberals read this site and don’t really give a darn if they offdence conservatives. To them any member of the GOP is either too busy thumping their bible or breeding their sister.

    I’m sick of this PC crap. The ‘banning’ of the confederate flag isn’t about racism, it’s about the left controlling speech. If they can ban a flag cause they think it inspires racism, where does it end? We ban country music cause only racists listen to country music. We can’t air reruns of “Two and a half men”, cause it promotes prostitution. And so on. If you give the left a inch, they’ll take the country!

    And I’m sorry that the first amendment bothers you so.

    • maggie says:

      TV Line is reporting on a TV show, showing content or a recap just like they do for many shows. The effort is to ban the Confederate flag from public buildings. That doesn’t mean that you can’t own one or fly one at your house. You can wear it on your clothes or put a bumper sticker of it on your vehicle. No one is trying to take away your right to own or display the Confederate flag. But it shouldn’t be on a government building, due to its racist connotation, and that it represents people who committed treason against the US government.

    • hud says:

      Well said Robby. I had more to say, but I guess it didn’t pass muster with the censors.

      • It wasn’t what you said, Hud, it was that Triceratops thing coming out of your forehead. I guess they felt you were just too ugly.

      • Angela says:

        Yeah, newsflash, it’s not a “censors” thing, it’s a common glitch with this site. Many people have had comments eaten up no matter what they’re talking about, be it politics or TV shows. I tried to reply to Robby twice last night and my comment didn’t go through either time. So nice try.
        The civil nature of this comment section sure was nice while it lasted. Sigh.

    • Hey Robby, as of this morning, from the Republican Governor of South Carolina on out, a groundswell of Republicans including Conservatives are calling for taking down the Confederate flag in all public places. I know this is not the world you want to wake up to but it is the new reality.
      On another note, I strongly suggest you Google “Cornerstone Speech” and check it out on the Wikipedia site which is factual, non-opinionated information. This speech was given by the Vice President of the Confederacy shortly before the Civil War and clearly outlines what the Confederacy stood for and symbolically what the :stars and bars” represents.
      And one more note, imagine that your life depended on someone’s opinion. I’m sure like me, you respect everyone’s right to their opinion, however, in the case where it’s really important, wouldn’t you want that person to have his/her facts straight, their logic surgically sharp, their thought process un-muddled and without excess baggage thrown in the mix to divert attention away from getting to the truth, as in a case of what might be a true way to save your life? I think you might.

      • hud says:

        Nattle Altman. Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit with YOUR opinions all over this site I’m sure you already know this. Put your name on a ballot run for office. This is a TV site, not a political forum. Oliver is a Brit.Planes leave daily that can take him across the pond.

        • help me here, hud: You say,”sarcasm is the lowest form of wit with (my) opinions all over this site you’re sure I already know this”. ok, I’ll bite. Know what? Make an effort to stand behind your statements. What does “sarcasm being the lowest form of wit” have to do with ‘my opinions being all over this site'” and because they are, that somehow makes me “already know this”–know that “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit?” This makes no logical sense. What does my frequent posting have to do with YOUR opinion that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit? How would I know that from MY posting when it is YOUR opinion?

          • hud says:

            NA, you reply to a post not shown with a sarcastic retort. Just plain sad. Enough said?

          • This makes sense, Hud and was something I didn’t realize until after I read Angela’s post; that cut-off posts are not necessarily censored. I assumed your was and for the reason “not fit to print,” hence, my sarcasm. I apologize and thanks for being clear.

          • hud says:

            Sorry for the man crack. Often feel like a dino in search of a tar pit.

          • this interaction between you and I Hud is so interesting in that we went from misunderstanding, (on my part), hostility, again, on my part to return of hostility ( on your part) and follow up hostility (on my part) to the realization of mistaken perception (on my part), acknowledgment and apology (on my part) and acceptance of olive branch and apology of your own (on your part.) Neat isn’t it. Would that more people could behave this way. It’s so possible when strangers like us who don’t have to resolve issues, don’t have to be real and treat each other with respect, who can use the anonymity of the internet to be a–holes and choose not to do any of that. Peace and love!

  9. Jake says:

    The link is no longer working – it says “playback on other sites has been disabled by owner”.

  10. Jaddy Baddy says:

    When Jon Oliver does this it’s intended as a
    joke. When Jon Stewart, and all Yankees, do
    this with the gun of the Yankee military
    pointed at the head of All Southerners, it’s
    not just extortion, it’s Rape.

    Every damn day the Yankee Jack flies over the
    South, It Is Rape.

    Just as everyday the Union Jack flies over Scotland,
    It Is RAPE.

  11. Jaddy Baddy says:

    When Jon Stewart rips the Rebel flag,
    it’s intended as a joke. When Jon Stewart,
    and all Yankees, do it with the gun of
    the Yankee military pointed at the head
    of All Southerners, it’s not just
    extortion, it’s Rape.

    Every damn day the Yankee Jack flies over the
    South, It Is Rape.