In-person back to school this year that comes with the added dilemma of each individual school district being left to decide which COVID-19 precautions to enforce — and that’s provoking a lot of heated debate, as John Oliver pointed out in his most recent show.
During his Aug. 15 episode of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver began the show’s typical news roundup introduction segment by focusing on the challenges school districts face in implementing COVID-19 precautions, like mandating every student wear a mask at school.
He also pointed out that part of the reason there’s a rise in children being hospitalized for the coronavirus is because the adults in their communities, that are eligible for vaccines, are often refusing to take them — and bringing COVID home to their kids. Since only children ages 12-15 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, school-age populations are especially vulnerable to infection.
Oliver noted that many school board meetings across the country have been overrun by parents protesting coronavirus safety measures. One meeting for the Buncombe County Schools Board of Education in Asheville, N.C. was graced by the presence of North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who had some colorful things to say about a county-wide mask mandate in schools.
Before showing a video of Cawthorn’s remarks last week, Oliver reminded us of that time Cawthorn posted a clip of him beating up a tree on his Instagram last March that immediately went viral for well, just how weird it was to watch.
“Madison Cawthorn thinks the biggest threat to children is school board members who think they’re omniscient,” Oliver said. “I’d say, I was surprised by that. But this is a man who once posted this video of himself beating up a tree, so he clearly loves to pick useless fights against imaginary opponents where he comes out looking like a complete asshole.”
“The greatest threat to our children today does not come from COVID-19. It comes from woke, liberal government officials like you who think they are all-knowing and all-wise,” Cawthorn said to school board members in the video.
Cawthorn continued his statement by mentioning an ancestor, who John Oliver was more than happy to look into.
“I am a direct descendant of Abraham Kuykendall, one of the first men to settle this county,” Cawthorn said. “He knew hardship firsthand. He did not endure that hardship just so a work school board could begin to systematically strip the responsibility from the hands of parents and guardians to determine what to happens with their children.”
As John Oliver was happy to research and point out, the heritage foundation of Henderson County — where Cawthorn’s ancestor Kuykendall lived in the 1780s — has some reading material on Kuykendall. And while Cawthorn was right that Kuykendall was one of the area’s oldest residents, it’s also true he was one of the oldest known slavers. Also, he somehow managed to pronounce his ancestor’s name wrong, a misstep Oliver was all-too-ready to correct.
“Not only does that last name sound like the Swedish translation for Bratz dolls, Abraham Kuykendall (which is how it’s actually pronounced) was one of the earliest slave owners in the county,” Oliver pointed out. “So, next time you’re trying to prove a point about how parents should decide what’s better for their kids, maybe don’t use a guy who decided the best thing for other people’s kids was for him to own them,” he concluded.
Check out the video with Oliver’s full comments at the top of the page.