John Oliver Just Broke Oprah Winfrey's Record With This $15 Million Giveaway

Late-night host forgives huge amount of medical debt

By Kendall Fisher Jun 06, 2016 4:11 PMTags
John Oliver, OprahMike Pont/Getty Images, Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

Step aside, Oprah Winfrey!

John Oliver just staged the largest one-time giveaway in television history during Sunday's show of Last Week Tonight, forgiving nearly $15 million in medical debt and helping 9,000 Americans. The move surpassed Oprah's previous record in which she gave 276 members of her audience a free car, for a total value of just under $8 million.

Oliver's giveaway was part of a 20-minute segment on the show, lambasting the debt-buying business and the politicians who have kept it deregulated for so long. 

"It is pretty clear by now debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it," he said. "And I can prove that to you, because I'm an idiot, and we started a debt-buying company. And it was disturbingly easy."

Do-Gooder Gallery

Essentially, Oliver started a debt-buying company, spending $50 to set up an agency he called Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP. He then bought nearly $15 million in medical debt from Texas for $60,000, which granted him access to 9,000 people's personal information, including names, home addresses and social security numbers.

"We thought instead of collecting on the money, why not forgive it?" he said. "Because on one hand, it's obviously the right thing to do, but much more importantly we'd be staging the largest one-time giveaway in television show history."

Oliver continued, "Now, clearly, this is only going to help the 9,000 people whose medical debt we bought. The larger issue is we need much clearer rules and proper oversight to protect consumers from potentially predatory companies, like the one we set up. But in the meantime, it seems the least we can do with this debt that I cannot f--king believe we are allowed to own is to do this."

And then he did, indeed, complete the task. "You are about to watch me give away $15 million," Oliver said, before finally slamming his hand on a big red button, as money rained down and the studio audience cheered.

Looks like it's Oprah's turn again next!

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