Barring an act of God or a fortuitously timed piano-drop, Donald Trump will be hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ this weekend. Many people, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Fortune’s Alisa Solomon, who called it “a new low in American politics,” are deeply unhappy about this. Add to their number Uproxx’s Mike Ryan, a devoted and knowledgable SNL fan of long standing, who writes, “‘SNL’ is a magical place and a magical show filled with fun and, yes, controversy. But bringing on a guy who spews hateful nonsense isn’t ‘controversial,’ it’s just lazy.”
As Ryan points out, “SNL” has tapped polarizing figures for the hosting slot before — notably Andrew Dice Clay, whose misogynist stand-up act prompted both cast member Nora Dunn and musical guest Sinéad O’Connor to boycott the show. John McCain appeared three days before the 2008 presidential elections, and Trump himself has hosted before, in 2004. But this time, Ryan argues, is different. Trump isn’t just a billionaire blowhard or a reality TV personality now: He’s a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and one who’s risen to that position in no small part by stoking nativist “Take America Back” rhetoric and playing to racist fears of Mexican rapists stampeding across our Southern borders.
Trump won’t be writing his own lines, of course, but even if he never says a single offensive thing, Ryan argues, hosting “SNL” is an honor he doesn’t deserve.
“I’ve noticed the level of anger at Trump’s hosting seems proportional to how seriously a person thinks Trump can actually win.” Ryan writes. “‘Oh, how can they give him this platform?’ I’ve heard. The thing is, SNL really isn’t a ‘platform’ — it’s not like he’ll get to talk about policy, it is a scripted show — but hosting SNL is a reward. Someone who makes public statements like Trump did in that quote above shouldn’t be rewarded with hosting one of the greatest television shows to ever be on the air. If someone thinks Trump’s a buffoon and has no chance of winning, that person seems to be more okay with all of this. Then it’s just ‘entertainment.’ The problem is, if Jennifer Aniston had said, ‘They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they are rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,’ Jennifer Aniston shouldn’t be hosting SNL, either. (I’m sorry, Jennifer Aniston, for bringing you into this.)”
Even if “SNL” isn’t a platform for Trump’s policies, it is a platform for his political persona, a chance to show, like McCain and Hillary Clinton and many others before him, that he’s a regular guy, that he can take a joke, that whether you agree with him on anything or nothing at all, he’s still a candidate you’d want to have the proverbial beer with. Every time Trump’s allowed on the air and he’s not pressed on his political positions — whether it’s on “SNL” or Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” — it’s an advertisement for the idea that, when he’s not being pressed by pesky Univision anchors or members of the media elite, he’s a pretty good guy. That’s what makes Trump’s “SNL” gig not just tasteless but actively dangerous, a way of whitewashing one of the most prominent racist demagogues this country has seen in decades.
Will Ferrell once theorized that his portrayal of George W. Bush as a dull-witted frat boy actually made the president more popular rather than less: It made him seem more approachable, practically cuddly. Imagine how much more powerful that effect it is when it’s the real candidate and not a proxy. How can you hate a man who makes you laugh?