Four years ago, Last Week Tonight warned viewers of the far-right empire, Sinclair Broadcast Group, that was taking over local news. That phenomenon resulted in trusted local news anchors being made to recite scripted right-wing rhetoric, and this is still happening at stations across the United States. Meanwhile, host John Oliver would like to inform everyone about more shenanigans that are possibly going down with your local news stations: sponsored content that can include fake-fake-fake medical products.
In order to explore how pervasive this content really is, Oliver invented a line of sexual wellness products, led foremost by the “world’s first sexual wellness blanket” (called the “Venus Veil”). It’s not a real product (and it kind-of looks like home insulation), but more details can be found at a real website (VenusInventions.com), and he did all of this to illustrate how easy (and relatively cheap) it is to buy time to advertise products like this on the local news while claiming that these are medical products. Yep, this happens with other products that are likely more dangerous than a sexy blanket, but he managed to buy airtime for $7,200 (total) on local stations in Denver, Austin, and Utah.
From there, Oliver hired an actress to make all kinds of wild claims about this sexy blanket, which promises to “fix erectile issues and improve vaginal lubrication” through “magnetogenetics” (apparently invented in Germany in the 1940s, so basically, this can be blamed on the Nazis) and even better (supposedly), this can be done “confidentially” by the blanket. It all sounds perfectly absurd, but yup, this rhetoric ended up on local news in multiple U.S. communities.
The danger here, of course is that, in the words of John Oliver, “the integrity of local news is crucially important. There is real harm for everyone if that integrity is damaged.” To that end, he would like to know (of these station owners), “The f*ck are you doing?” That’s a very fair question.