Donald Trump is using his first official visit to India to strength his ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom Trump has previously hailed as “the father of India.” But there are a couple of problems with that nickname, as John Oliver used Last Week Tonight’s main segment to point out. One is that the title is already taken, by no less a figure than Mahatma Gandhi. The other is that Modi has been using his office to pursue an aggressive policy of Islamophobia, leading Oliver to call Trump’s endorsement “stupid at best and dangerous at worst.” (A third potential issue: No one with Trump’s daddy issues should be dubbing anyone the father of anything.)
As Slate’s Nitish Pahwa recently pointed out, tensions between India’s Muslim and Hindu populations go back centuries. But recently Modi has unleashed a one-two punch that amounts to a national policy of religious exclusion: first the National Register of Citizens, which requires that many Indians submit documents that many do not possess in order to prove their legal citizenship, and second the Citizenship Amendment Act, which grants citizenship to a wide range of religious minorities but pointedly excludes Muslims. Combined with Modi’s massive, previously impervious, popularity and his telegenic charisma—Oliver excerpts his appearance on Man vs. Wild, which features Modi approvingly sniffing a hunk of elephant dung before host Bear Grylls squeezes out the juice and then is shown sampling some—the affinities with Trump seem all too clear, and the implications for both countries truly ominous. When the most John Oliver can offer to lighten the mood is ironic Hitler graphics and a public service announcement involving computer-animated piles of feces, you know things have gotten pretty dark.