John Oliver Takes On Flock-Fleecing Televangelists, Too-Lenient IRS

In another hard-hitting Last Week Tonight exposé of an obvious target, HBO’s John Oliver went after greedy, literally high-flying televangelists who use the millions mailed to them (mostly by the vulnerable poor) to crowd source lavish lifestyles that include private jets, hideous mansions and swanky vacations. You may have thought this phenomenon peaked in the 1970s, Oliver said (roger that). But no, it actually still goes on today, with many of the same rainmakers — notably one Robert Tilton, who is shown heatedly hollering, “Lupus, you foul devil, you bow to the name of Jesus!” on the flat screen. A 7-month correspondence with Tilton — Oliver gleefully waved the multi-colored envelopes — resulted in no cures for incurable diseases but plenty of increasingly bald money-grabs by Tilton’s green machine. At the top, Oliver cautioned that most churches do lots of socially admirable things such as feed the hungry and clothe the poor. This was not about those folks, he told the Sunday night audience before diving into the tawdry business at hand.

All of which would have been fresh if it weren’t so, what’s the word I’m looking for? Stale. In one semi-innovative twist, Oliver, unabashed at his own cleverness, even went so far as to found his own religion, “,” to demonstrate how lenient the Internal Revenue Service can be when it comes to policing phony religious enterprises that have tax-exempt non-profit status. How lenient? In 2014, the IRS audited one (1) tax-exempt religious organization, down 100 percent from the two (2) audited in 2013. All of which just goes to show that yesterday’s stale bread makes terrific today’s toast.

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