John Oliver – back on air after a two-week hiatus and in studio for the first time since Covid – started in by bashing AT&T for contributions to legislators who supported the harsh new Texas abortion law.
A political action committee belonging to AT&T was a major donor to Texas pols who sponsored and co-sponsored the bill, which passed and went into effect this month. It bans abortions at six weeks, before most women even know they’re pregnant, and encourages private citizens to sue people or services that perform or help a woman get an abortion – including Uber drivers taking women to clinics. Reporting parties could receive $10,000 and recover legal fees if they win their cases.
“Pending approval of our sale to Discovery, [AT&T is] still technically our business daddy,” said the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. The telecom giant AT&T in May announced plans to spin off HBO parent WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery in a deal expected to close by mid-2022.
According to Oliver, when asked for comment, AT&T stated that It has never taken a stance on abortion. “An amazing sentence,” he said. And he said the company noted that employee-backed contributions to Texas legislators went to both supporters and opponents of the Texas abortion legislation.
“Not taking a stance on this issue right now is taking a stance,” Oliver said. “And both-siding abortion isn’t really the PR slam dunk that that they seem to think it is.”
“Although it is certainly on brand for them. AT&T clearly likes their public statements the same way that they like their cell signal — hilariously f-cking weak.”
Oliver noted that so far much of corporate America has decided not to weigh in on the Texas abortion law, in stark contrast to companies’ willingness to speak out on racial justice, voting rights and other social issues. (Uber and Lyft are two that have taken stands, both announcing plans to cover all legal costs of drivers who may be sued.)
Oliver returned live (from the blank, white background he called The Void of past months) in the presence of a small Covid-vaxed and tested audience — that recorded only one breakthrough infection. “But not of Covid, of smallpox, so it’s completely all right.”
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