By Daniel Gonzalez
October 22, 2015
A campaign to dump Donald Trump from hosting "Saturday Night Live" next month is gaining steam.
The network announced last week that Trump, the Republican frontrunner, will host the longstanding comedy show on Nov. 7. Since then, there has been mounting pressure from some Latino and immigrant advocates for NBC to cancel Trump's appearance.
An online petition created by America's Voice and the left-leaning MoveOn.org calling on NBC to drop Trump from hosting Saturday Night Live has received nearly 140,000 signatures.
"To give him the role of host essentially validates his position and gives him a platform to continue his attacks on Latinos and immigrants," said Juan Escalante, director of digital campaigns for America's Voice, an immigrant-advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
Trump was invited to host the show just months after NBCUniversal severed business ties with him over derogatory comments he made about Mexicans while announcing his bid for president.
"They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," he said about Mexicans in June. "And some, I assume, are good people."
Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino civil-rights group, called "Saturday Night Live"'s decision to have Trump host the show a “slap in the face to millions of Hispanic viewers.”
"This is not about lacking a sense of humor," Murguia said.
She pointed out that over the past 40 years, "Saturday Night Live" has become a "highly-coveted platform" for political candidates trying to "connect with the American public."
"It is appalling, then, that a show with that history and that role to showcase a man whose campaign has been built on bigotry and demagoguery for the sake of buzz and ratings," Murguia said in a statement.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez,D-Ill., from the House floor, called on NBC to rescind Trump's invitation to host "Saturday Night Live."
"To put Donald Trump on the air in American living rooms on the signature comedy show of one of the most important national networks -- after saying that Mexicans are rapists, drug dealers and criminals -- that is a corporate blunder too big to be ignored," said Gutierrez, a longtime advocate for immigrants.
NBC said it is not commenting.
Trump deflects the criticism
Trump seems to relish the criticism. He predicted that the "Saturday Night Live" he is hosting will be the "highest-rated show in a long time" and the protests against his appearance will only drive ratings higher.
He dismissed the protests as being led by "scammers" who "look around for money."
"They sit home on their iPad laying in bed tapping out things," he said during a telephone interview Tuesday on CNN's "New Day."
"This happens all the time. Then you have weak companies like Macy's, they fall for it."
In July, the department store chain dropped Trump's line of menswear from its collection in response to his comments about Mexican immigrants.
This will be Trump's second time hosting "Saturday Night Live." He previously hosted the show on April 3, 2004.
He is not the first political candidate to host the show. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Al Gore, and U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, have also hosted.
On Oct. 3, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton also appeared on a sketch on the show, though she was not the host.
Trump's joint venture with NBCUniversal included the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and the reality show "The Apprentice."
Inviting Trump to host "Saturday Night Live" is not the same as having a business partnership with him, said Bob Thompson, a professor who heads Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.
"Donald Trump, because of his comments, had become toxic. They were considered by most people to be offensive so NBC decided they were not going to be in a business relationship" with him, Thompson said.
Will NBC have to offer equal time?
Trump's appearance is more about the show remaining "politically relevant" at a time when it faces competition from many other programs, Thompson said.
When that show started in 1975, "all Chevy Chase had to do was fall over a podium and that was considered political satire," Thompson said. "Now there are a lot of people doing a lot of serious political comedy. 'Saturday Night Live' wants to remain the relevant one .... And I think them getting Donald Trump to host puts them right smack in the middle of that political and satirical presence."
And, of course, Thompson said, "whenever Donald Trump appears, the ratings go up."
Thompson said he thinks there is a "very real possibility" that "Saturday Night Live" could cancel Trump's appearance as host if the outcry continues to grow to avoid appearing to endorse the comments he has made about Mexicans.
"I'm sure their ears are very, very careful to the ground and I think it's a possibility that they could cancel," Thompson said, "and of course what Donald Trump could say is that he decided not to do it."
If Trump does end up hosting, it's possible NBC may be obligated to offer the same opportunity to Trump's 14 GOP rivals under the FCC's "equal time" rule, according to Joe Russomanno, who teaches mass communications law at Arizona State University.
The rule requires broadcast stations to provide equal air time to political opponents who request it.
But it's not clear that other GOP candidates would want to host the show, he said.
"Donald Trump is comfortable with this," Russomanno said. "He has hosted 'Saturday Night Live' previously. He has the showman skill at his disposable that I'm not sure many, if any, of the other candidates, at least on the Republican side do.
"So I think NBC is executing a calculated gamble here in that while they would be forced to extend a similar invitation, that few if any of the other candidates would accept," he concluded.
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