John Oliver afflicted by the same plague that got Stephen Colbert

After Stephen Colbert embarrassed himself last year by describing a prairie dog as a “chipmunk”, John Oliver committed an error of similar order on last week’s edition of Last Week Tonight.

Oliver described the recent scientific discovery that gerbils may have been responsible for the spread of black plague — not rats — and then proceeded to air a brief reel on behalf of the human race, “to apologize to the rat community for centuries of demonization.” While the voiceover artist expressed his sincere regrets, images of rat persecution flashed across the screen — including this one:

olivers so-called rats

Just one problem: That’s no rat! That’s a R.O.U.S., Rodent of Unusual Size — which does exist, but is far more likely to be a beaver or a nutria or a capybara than a rat. I imagine that when you have a mousetrap, every rodent looks like a mouse, but just because rats happen to be the rodents you’re most familiar with doesn’t turn every rodent into one.

So that makes two recent graduates of Comedy Central’s late night programming who could really use some help on the Rodent Education Front. Jon Stewart, by contrast, has shown some promise in this regard. We can only hope that his looming departure from the Daily Show does not lure Leibowitz to the dark side.

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