Pop Culture

‘SNL’ Gives a Platform to Republican Candidate and Noted Bigot Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley appears in the 'SNL' cold open sketch.

If it’s an election year, you can bet that some presidential hopefuls will swing by Studio 8H for a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live. Politicians have been popping up in sketches for decades now to mock their opponents, garner headlines, and appear like they are in on the joke.

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These appearances work best when a politician is willing to make fun of themselves. At their worst, SNL and Lorne Michaels will prop up and comedy-wash dangerously bigoted bad-faith actors. The series hit a political and comedic nadir with Donald Trump’s panned hosting gig in 2015, which only served to normalize Trump’s hateful rhetoric.

But apparently, SNL learned nothing from that disastrous episode, as Nikki Haley crashed this week’s cold open. The sketch featured James Austin Johnson’s Trump participating in a CNN town hall in South Carolina. Haley appeared in the audience asking Trump why he wouldn’t debate her and joking that he needed a mental competency test.

The sketch ended with host Ayo Edebiri asking Haley, “I was just curious, what would you say was the main cause of the Civil War, and do you think it starts with an ‘s’ and ends with a ‘lavery’?” referencing Haley’s disastrous answer to the same question in December. Haley responds, “Yup, I probably should’ve said that the first time,” before shouting “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”

Is this the first time that a politician’s “sorry for my racism” pseudo-apology segued into the show’s iconic opening line? And why does SNL continue to platform harmful bigots in an attempt at both sides-ism? Yes, Haley is the last woman standing before Trump’s all-but-assured nomination. But while she’s inarguably better than Trump (the bar is subterranean), Haley is still a transphobic, racist piece of garbage.

And in inviting her on the show, SNL and Michaels are platforming her hateful views. It’s especially offensive to cast members who are queer and/or non-binary, like Bowen Yang and Molly Kearney. Just last week, transphobic comedian Dave Chappelle crashed the show’s good nights, and audiences noted a visibly uncomfortable Yang and Sarah Sherman standing off to the side.

But don’t worry, it gets worse! SNL will continue to try and court right-wing viewers with its next host, comedian Shane Gillis. SNL famously hired Gillis in 2019, before firing him days later for his history of racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes.

SNL will continue to chase outrage for clout, alienating its core audience while desperately trying to win over a conservative audience. The show, the cast, and the audience deserve better.

(featured image: NBC)

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