Monday, July 16, 2018

John Oliver unloads on Donald Trump, packing PolitiFact, Tampa into his argument

The Internet is full of "epic takedowns" by pundits denigrating politicians and their stances. The degree to which any such takedown qualifies as "epic" is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

But opponents of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump are fired up this week over John Oliver, who spent 21 minutes pillorying the brash billionaire on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight."

The segment uses juvenile comedy — Oliver makes hay with jokes about Trump having short fingers and flashes an image of him with his feet on fire — to make an altogether serious argument that the Republican's candidacy has gone far enough and he would be dangerous as president.

FLASHBACK: Trump University came to Tampa in 2008

To make his case, Oliver examines Trump's qualities that are most often cited by his supporters — that he "tells it like it is;" that he's funding his campaign with his own money and therefore isn't beholden to self-interested donors; that he's aggressive and strong; and that he's a spectacularly successful businessman who could bring that acumen to the White House.

To the first point — that Trump tells the truth in an unvarnished way most politicians won't — Oliver cites our fact-checking service PolitiFact.

"Does he? Because the website PolitiFact checked 77 of his statements, and rated 76 percent of them as varying degrees of false," Oliver said.

Check out PolitiFact's story on Trump's record and read his overall scorecard .

To the last point — that Trump's success in the business world will make the country more prosperous — Oliver points to a local Trump-branded real estate venture that never materialized.

Remember Trump Tower Tampa?

Way back in 2005, Trump put his name behind a proposed $300 million, 52-story luxury condo complex on Tampa's waterfront. It would have been the tallest condo tower on the west coast of Florida, with pads ranging in price from $700,000 up to $6 million.

Trump himself swept into Tampa for a ballyhooed sales launch. He bragged that just one month after unveiling the project, 98 percent of the units had been claimed.

But one real estate crash and many years later, and the tower never rose from the ground.

In early 2006, the contractor was replaced. Later that year, amid financing woes, workers discovered a "subsurface anomaly" at the 1.5-acre riverfront site at Ashley Drive and Brorein Street.

By 2007, Trump walked away , pulling his name from the project.

In his wake were buyers who lost thousands of dollars, and a long trail of lawsuits.

But Trump wasn't on the hook for anything because he wasn't the developer, just the name on the project.

A decade later, they still felt burned. Said one investor: "I lost $130,000. I didn't know people could take your money and not build the building.''

Last year, the still-undeveloped site of Trump Tower Tampa was sold to a new developer. The plan: another 52-story condo tower.

Here's the video of Oliver's entire screed:

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