NBC bows to Trump for ratings bump
November 2, 2015
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is set to host the NBC program Saturday Night Live for the second time next weekend amid backlash from the Latino community. The movement #RacismIsntFunny has been circulating a petition urging NBC to drop Trump from the episode, garnering over 228,000 signatures. Controversy over hosts is not unprecedented for SNL; the show faced boycotts in 1990 when comedian Andrew Dice Clay, known for his misogynistic jokes, hosted. But NBC’s history with Trump is defined by the network’s decision this summer to sever all business ties with Trump following his derogatory remarks regarding immigrants. For this reason, the invitation extended to Trump is steeped in hypocrisy and suggests that NBC values ratings above the “respect and dignity for all people” they cited in the announcement of their ultimately short-lived breakup with Trump.
The opportunity to appear on SNL is coveted by politicians looking to loosen up their public image. Most recently, Hillary Clinton appeared for a cameo as a bartender during the season premiere, poking fun at herself in an attempt to change the cold and aloof perception many viewers at home have of her. However, Trump’s ability to ride media frenzy to the top is a major factor that drives his high poll numbers, and NBC’s choice to gift him with a tremendous platform is an implicit sign of support despite past public statements to the contrary. A host credit on the show will boost Trump’s brand, as he boasted last time he hosted the show in 2004, “It’s great to be here at ‘Saturday Night Live,’ but I’ll be completely honest. It’s even better for ‘Saturday Night Live’ that I’m here. Nobody’s bigger than me, nobody’s better than me, I’m a ratings machine.”
NBC must be wary of reaching for ratings by ignoring key demographics. Trump has not managed to make amends with the Latino community, and his mounting unpopularity should raise concerns to the network, given SNL’s already glaring lack of representation. None of the current cast members are Latino; past stars Fred Armison and Horatio Sanz have been the only two in the history of the show. Choosing Trump as a host may boost ratings, but it will only serve to alienate the show’s Latino audience further.
While it is unlikely that NBC will remove Trump at this point, the network should be held accountable in the future, instead of being allowed to cast aside their stated convictions for a Trump-sized bump in ratings. For now, it will be up to the writers at SNL to determine what this appearance will mean for Trump, and whether we will be laughing with him or at him. Trump’s opinions haven’t changed and will always find an outlet for broadcast. NBC has no reason to further the spread of racist rhetoric they once rejected.
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A version of this article appeared in the November 2 print edition. Email Elizabeth Moore at [email protected]