This upcoming Saturday, Nov. 7, entrepreneur TV personality and presidential candidate Donald Trump will be hosting and acting in skits on the popular sketch variety show “Saturday Night Live.”
Controversy sparked when the announcement that Trump accepted an invitation to host “SNL” was made a few weeks ago. But on Wednesday, November 4, the sparks quickly evolved to a full-fledged fire.
On Wednesday, NBC unveiled eight promos for the upcoming “SNL” episode but pulled the video down from YouTube just minutes after posting it without an explanation. In one of the skits featured in the promo features Trump and SNL personality Cecily Strong poking fun at controversies with the episode’s airing issue with the FCC and deriding fellow Republican and forerunner Ben Carson.
In the segment, Strong states that “Because of equal time rules for television, Mr. Trump can only speak for four seconds in this promo,” Trump responds with, “So let me just say this…Ben Carson is a complete and total loser.” A network spokesman later told NBC News Correspondent Peter Alexander that NBC had “accidentally” published the wrong YouTube link, which contained three promos “not meant for air”. A new video with the three offending promos removed was eventually uploaded to YouTube.
One reason for the controversy surrounding Trump hosting “SNL” is the racist remarks he made that involved Latinos. Representatives of Latino groups say that the presidential candidate’s willingness to retweet an image of rival Jeb Bush in a Mexican sombrero and next to a swastika shows why they are planning protests on Wednesday night against “SNL”. Felix Sanchez, founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) states that Trump “keeps pushing the envelope so that the more that people find his comments acceptable, the more he pushes outwardly on those issues. He presses those buttons even harder.” Sanchez adds, “That is why the protest is out there. We know he’s using Latinos as a wedge issue.”
The NHFA is only one of several groups planning an “All Out for SNL Dump Trump Rally” outside of the “SNL” studio in Rockefeller Center. Others groups include the National Council of La Raza, National Hispanic Media Coalition, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, America’s Voice, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Institute for Latino Policy. Other national groups like MoveOn.org and Justice League, as well as local groups, are also participating. The groups have stated they are bringing more than 460,000 signatures of people asking SNL and NBC to rescind its invitation of Trump.
Adding to the controversy involving Trump hosting the show is supposed FCC regulation equal time rule, an often misunderstood FCC regulation that requires that a station that gives free airtime to one candidate offer the same opportunity for exposure to rival qualified candidates. When Hillary Clinton appeared on “SNL”on Oct. 3, NBC’s executive vice president of affiliate relations, Jean Dietze sent a notice to station general managers letting them know that Hillary’s appearance clocked in at 3 minutes and 12 seconds and asking them to let affiliate relations “know promptly if your station receives a demand for equal time from any of the other candidates.” None did.
However, Trump’s appearance on the show may be a whole different story. Hillary made a short one-sketch cameo appearance. Trump on the other hand, will be hosting throughout the episode’s entirety. His amount of time on the show will be substantively longer than Hillary’s very brief appearance. policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, Meredith McGehee argues that Trump’s appearance on “SNL” is crossing the line in terms of “triggering the equal time rule.” She adds that “the dynamics of the race, where they are trying to humanize him and show that he is not just a bloviator, it is incredibly politically valuable to him.”
The equal-time rules make exceptions for newscasts, news interviews, documentaries and current events — and the FCC in recent years, has given some leeway to late-night talk shows in this regard. Shows like “SNL” present an authentic news interview, even if the news is presented in the form of satire. “SNL” is not a news interview show, but a sketch comedy show that frequently skewers current events. According to Variety, it therefore, may be a bit more difficult for “SNL” to earn the exemption.