The Larry People vs. Flint - Toxic Water Crisis in Michigan

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Stingy government officials in Flint, MI, cut corners by supplying residents with filthy, lead-tainted drinking water. (8:01)

(cheering and applause)

-Ah!-(audience chanting "Larry!")

Thank you very much. Oh!

Thank you very much.Please be seated.

-Such a nice crowd, comin'...-(chanting stops abruptly)

(chuckles)That was great.

When I said "stop," "Larry."

Very nice, studio audience.

Yeah.My audience, bam, like that.

Welcome to The Nightly Show. I am Larry Wilmore, you know.

Uh, now, tonightthere's a big story coming out

of Flint, Michigan, and--spoiler alert-- not good news.

A state of emergencyhas been declared

for thousands of people.

This is monthsafter researchers discovered

toxic levels of lead

in their water supply.

(groaning)

Oh, my God, look at that water.

That's right, kids.For once in your lives,

Mountain Dew is healthier than water.

Finally.

So the poor people of Flintare in trouble

because of their government,so I must take up their cause.

Consider it The Larry People vs. Flint.

Thank you very much.

Um, so how did Flint dothe Larry People wrong?

REPORTER: In an attempt to cut costs,

city officials stopped getting pretreated water

from the city of Detroit in 2014

and instead began using water from the nearby Flint River.

The problem is that the Flint River

is 19 times more corrosive.

(groaning)

19 times more corrosivethan Detroit?

Oh, my God.

I mean, we're not talkingabout, uh, water

from the islands of Fijior the springs of Poland

or the ancientunderwater kingdom of Aquafina.

We're talking about tap waterfrom the bailout city.

All right, water, uh...water nerds,

tell me how this happened.

The corrosive Flint River water goes from the plant

to the water mains to the service lines to homes.

In Flint, the water mains are made of iron,

which turns some of the water brown.

And half of the service lines and pipes in Flint homes

are made of lead.

Okay.Just think about this, guys.

Uh, that sentence was started

with"corrosive Flint River water."

And when it turns brownfrom the iron pipes,

that's when it's still yummy.

Mmm...

It goes bad when it goesthrough the dirty lead pipes.

"Yeah, I'll tell youwhat your problem is.

"These lead pipes are ruining

"your filthy browndrinking water.

"You know what your problem is--

you got to get ridof the lead pipes."

All right, so there's alittle bit of lead in the water.

I mean, it can't be that bad,right?

I mean, what does it do?

It drops your IQ,it affects your behavior,

it's been linked to criminality.

If you were to put something

in a population to keep themdown for a generation

and generations to come,it would be lead.

Or the Man!

I mean, seriously,

slowly poisoningan entire population of a town

by ruining the water supply?

Who came up with this plan,the Joker?

Actually, uh,the Joker has issued a statement

on the Flint water crisis.

WILMORE (reading):

(cheering and applause)

Joker, man. The Joker.

Now, a lot of you at homeare thinking, "Okay, I get it.

"A lot of these people are poor,

but can't they just, like, buywater from the grocery store?"

REPORTER: This 33-square-mile city

doesn't even have a grocery store.

But...(stammers)

No water and no grocery stores?!

Jesus Christ.

Flint is scoring pretty lowin Life-Sustaining Bingo.

(sighs)

All right. So, look,

this issue just doesn'tmake sense to me, you guys.

I mean, all you had to dowas treat the water

to be less corrosive

so it didn't eat throughthe lead pipes.

I mean, what,that water treatment plant,

it must have cost billionsof dollars, right,

for you not to do this? I mean,

it must beprohibitively expensive.

REPORTER: A water quality expert tells NBC News

that just $100 a day was all it would have taken

to avoid this crisis.

(groaning)

You couldn't spend $100 a dayon your own...

so your own peoplewon't be poisoned?

What were you saving that moneyfor,

the Flint, MichiganSadness Parade?

We'd show a pictureof last year's parade,

but it's just too sad.

Look, guys, I cannot believe

city leaderscould be this insensitive.

But, look, this is true.

Check out this town hallfrom last April

where the mayor, he's tryingto convince residents

that their wateris as clean as Detroit's.

(gasping, laughter)

"It's as muchas we have for now"?!

Let me seeif I can translate that for you.

Um, "if you're poor,we don't give a (bleep). Next."

And you know this is (bleep),because look at that lady

next to him. Look.Let's show that again.

Sh-She's got some bottled water,guys!

She knows this is (bleep),right?

Oh, my God!

"Mmm. Look what I got,poor people.

"Mm-hmm. You can get thisat the grocery store.

"100 miles away!

Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.Ha, ha, ha. Mmm."

That's right.She's secretly the Joker.

Yeah.

And it's not just the cityofficials who are insensitive.

This is whatthe Michigan Department

for Environmental Qualityspokesperson had to say.

Yeah, nothing helps you relaxa little

like lead poisoningbrain damage, right?

You know,because it's an election year,

we always hear Republicans talk

about the gloryof small government.

Well, this is whatsmall government looks like.

When you have politiciansfalling all over each other

to see who can makethe most draconian budget cuts,

you get decisions like this--

citizens poisoned in a mania tosave 100 (bleep) dollars a day.

I mean,officials in-in Flint, Michigan,

should all be rounded upand put behind bars.

If you need some extra leadfor those bars,

just hold a town blood drive.

Right?

That's how they endall the Sadness Parades anyway,

by the way.All right, all right, all right.

To get more insight, we thoughtwe'd talk to a real Michigander.

Please welcome Flint resident,Thomas Williams.

(cheering and applause)

All right. Uh, hey, Thomas.So, uh...

Thomas, how are you copingwith the water situation?

Oh, there's nothing wrongwith the water over here, Larry.

I've been drinking itmy whole life, and I'm fine.

Really? But-but it's got leadin it.

Hey, black man's gonna get leadfrom either water

or a police bullet.

I prefer water.

Um...

Yeah, right, well, you're right,it's not as bad as getting shot.

I mean, that's true.But studies still show

lead in water lowers IQ.

Larry, when you livein Flint, Michigan,

you got to make the bestout of any situation.

Okay? When life gives youlemons, you make lemonade.

-(laughs) -Wait, wait, wait,that's lemonade?

Yeah, it's sort of likean Arnold Palmer--

equal parts lemonade and lead.

Larry, do me a favor,help a brother out.

Do I have a lead mustache?

Uh... I-I'm really not sure.

Oh, 'cause it'sclass picture day at school.

Oh. Oh, really?What grade do you teach?

Teach? I'm 12.

-12?-Yeah.

Oh, my God, that water'saged you horribly.

Horribly?I'm a 12-year-old

sleeping with a 25-year-oldyoga instructor. (laughs)

A 25-year-old yoga instructor?

If life gives you lemons, Larry.

Okay, I got it.

Little Tommy Williams,everybody.

We'll be right back.You're 12?

-♪ -(cheering, applause)