The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ecuadoran president engages comedian John Oliver in Twitter war

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa arrives for a military ceremony at the Eloy Alfaro military school in Quito on Jan. 26. (Guillermo Granja/Reuters)
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Last weekend, British American comedian John Oliver poked fun at Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, on Oliver's weekly show on HBO. He lampooned the Ecuadoran leader's own TV program, highlighting in particular Correa's troubling penchant for calling out his critics on social media and listing their names and contacts on screen. Oliver ended the show encouraging viewers to direct abuse at Correa's official Twitter account "to help him get over his hypersensitivity."

You can watch the full segment here.

On Thursday, Correa published a series of tweets dismissing Oliver.

"Regarding John Oliver: too much noise for such little nuts," Correa wrote, using an idiom signifying much ado about nothing.

He then went on to tweet a few gibes of his own, saying "talk shows hosts are more unfriendly than a diuretic" and suggested that a "British comedian" was an "oxymoron." (Correa is strangely unaware of ol' Blighty's


Correa closed with what he imagined must have been a stirring anti-yanqui diatribe.

"In Latin America, we are proud to have citizens and not subjects," Correa tweeted. "They’re making someone famous who probably thinks the capital of Ecuador is Kuala Lumpur. He does not deserve a second of time." (The first claim about Kuala Lumpur is probably not true — Oliver knows his stuff. And, of course, Correa gave the comedian much more than a second of his time.)

Beyond the farce lie real concerns. Correa, who has ruled for nearly a decade, has been criticized for bullying opposition media, passing bills to regulate his nation's press and muffling journalists with libel suits. The left-leaning Correa is cast somewhat in the mold of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a Latin American demagogue who famously had his own TV show, which he used to routinely heap scorn upon his opponents, both domestic and foreign.

Oliver pointedly warned Correa that if "you are this sensitive, then Twitter and Facebook might not be for you. And, to be honest, being a world leader might not be for you."

The HBO star did perhaps make one misstep in his mocking of the Ecuadoran president. In the segment, he ridiculed a scene on Correa's show where he greets a clown. "Unfortunately, [Correa's televised speeches] can take a darker turn. Yes, even darker than a clown," Oliver quipped.

The clown in question, the BBC reports, is actually a beloved Ecuadoran children's character known as Tiko Tiko. And some Ecuadorans on social media rushed both to their president and the clown's defense. The hashtag meme #JohnYouAreInvited (to visit Ecuador, presumably) trended over the course of the week.

This post has been updated.