There’s some serious confusion going on over at SNL and NBC.
Last weekend, the comedy show debuted a “Racists For Trump” ad calling out the radical, bigoted stances of many of his supporters. “He says what I’m thinking,” a pleasant-seeming woman in the skit smiles into the camera, at the end revealing that the white garment she’s been ironing the whole time is actually a KKK robe.
This ad coming from anyone else would normally be phenomenal, as more and more are finally calling out Trump’s hateful rhetoric for what it really is. “So, what’s the problem?,” asks Slant’s Trevor Silverstein. “The problem is it’s too late. SNL dropped the ball.” Both SNL and NBC were pretty complicit in mainstreaming Trump’s racism, and all in the cheap name of ratings and profits.
Flashback to June, 2015. The network made all the right moves by cutting business ties with Trump — including dumping his Miss Universe pageant and ending his “Celebrity Apprentice” hosting duties — following his ugly accusations that immigrants from Mexico are criminals and “rapists.” Countless others, including Macy’s, Televisa, NASCAR, Serta, and ESPN, followed suit.
“At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” the company said in a press statement at the time. “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump.” So far, so good.
But by October the network had backtracked, inviting Trump to host an episode of SNL. Latino and immigrant rights organizations and activists fought back — hard — gathering over half a million signatures in a #RacismIsntFunny campaign demanding executive producer Lorne Michaels and other NBC executives rescind the invitation and not aid in mainstreaming Trump’s racism.
“[Latinos] do not want to see Trump’s racism or his anti-immigration message being satirized,” AV’s Juan Escalante said at the time. “There’s nothing funny about mass deportation. There’s nothing funny about separating families. There’s nothing funny about calling Mexicans ‘rapists’ and murderers. … It’s a very poor show of judgement and it’s completely disrespectful to Latinos and viewers across the nation.”
But the network refused to listen, even following a highly-published petition delivery and flood of criticism. SNL’s refusal to dump Trump boiled down to ratings and greed, pure and simple. “At the end of the day, he was on the show for 11 minutes and … it wasn’t like the Earth fell off its axis,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt tried to reason in January. “It was a highly rated show, and that’s always a good thing.”
Sure, SNL and NBC got their ratings, but the cost was losing any sort of credibility the network has left when it came to Trump. “Having Trump host SNL is a tacit nod of approval — of his message, his antics and, yes, his campaign to be the Republican presidential nominee,” noted the Washington Post at the time.
NBC hasn’t exactly learned its lesson about aiding and abetting Trumpism, either. Last November, NBC News President Deborah Turness referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals” during a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The purpose of the meeting, no less, was to discuss diversity at the network. “Yo hablo español,” Turness reportedly told horrified Latino lawmakers. “We love the Hispanic community.”
Despite the “praise” from Turness and anti-Trump SNL skits, diversity continues to be a very real problem for NBC, especially following the abrupt departure of Melissa Harris-Perry from MSNBC, as well as reports that two other journalists of color, Alex Wagner and José Díaz-Balart, may also see their own anchoring roles either severely diminished or completely eliminated. Meanwhile, “Morning Joe” hosts have been blasted for their cozy relationship with Trump, as MSNBC even considers expanding the show.
Trump appears all but certain to be the GOP’s nominee for President, ensuring he stays in the national spotlight through November. So if NBC truly values diversity, as the NBC News President claimed to those Latino lawmakers, this will be a real test to see whether the network means what it says and puts integrity over ratings, or continues to be a partner in mainstreaming Trump’s racism.