In a new feature on Saturday Night Live in The Hollywood Reporter, members of the cast and crew discussed what it’s been like dealing with Donald Trump‘s ascent, triumph, and institutionalization. Towards the end of the piece, staffers finally addressed the elephant in the room when it comes to anyone from SNL speaking negatively about Trump: the fact that they let Trump, prior becoming the Republican nominee, host the show.
Instead of expressing guilt or regret about the choice, as former cast member Taran Killam did in a recent interview, where he said the choice to book Trump “felt like a move for ratings from both sides,” the SNL affiliates seem to believe that it was a logical and unproblematic move at the time. Here’s what Colin Jost had to say about the criticism levied at the show:
I always think it’s so funny when people talk about the idea that we somehow introduced him to America or that our show or Jimmy Fallon has humanized him. He’s been on the cover of every tabloid consistently for 30 years. When he hosted last season, the worry was, “Would he have burned out by the time he even came to host?” That was Lorne’s concern more than the concern of, “How will this help him?”
It seems strange that Jost thinks it’s odd or ridiculous that people are criticizing The Tonight Show and SNL‘s choice to give Trump a platform prior to his nomination. After all, he had laid out most of the hateful tenets of his policy prior in the earliest stages of his candidacy. Show writer Bryan Tucker made a slightly more persuasive point about the choice to book him: “People had different opinions about him being there at that time, but during that week, he was in second place in Iowa, behind Ben Carson. He was definitely a national phenomenon, but he was not imminently going to be president.”
It is true that, at that point, it was very hard to imagine Trump winning (as it was for many right up until the end of election night.) Tucker also points out in the piece that this is not the first time a political candidate has hosted SNL or appeared in a sketch (Hillary Clinton and John McCain have both appeared on the show previously), implying that it’s come to be regarded as common practice.
But Trump’s example is a good argument for just playing it safe and never doing that, in case the person gets put in a position of greater power and ends up doing truly reprehensible things. Why be associated at all, and potentially be on the wrong side of history? At the very least, why lose sleep at night imagining the hypothetical voter who might have thought “Well, at least this guy has a sense of humor about himself! How bad could he be?”