(CNN)“Saturday Night Live” returned after a three-week hiatus and delivered a stinging and bold comedic takedown of both Bill O’Reilly and President Donald Trump’s alleged history of sexual misconduct with women. Although “SNL” was unfair in one way — it lumped Trump and O’Reilly’s history of sexism together — when in reality Trump’s is far worse.
The show opened the show with Alec Baldwin as Trump at a town hall meeting in Kentucky. The sketch comically summed up why Trump supporters still like him even though some of Trump’s proposed policies would personally hurt them: “It’s like you found a finger in your chili, but you still eat the chili, because you told everyone how much you love chili.”
But the best political comedy sketch came when Baldwin returned later in the show as Fox News’ embattled host Bill O’Reilly. And when I say best “political comedy,” it’s not which sketch elicited the biggest laughs. Political comedy needs to be measured by what is both funny and makes insightful points. And it’s often not the funniest sketch of the show because it’s raising issues, such as in this example sexual harassment, which make many people uncomfortable.
Baldwin’s O’Reilly was spot on from voice to the subtle facial gestures to the O’Reilly-like smugness that makes you want to throw something at the television. The early part of the sketch reminded us about the news this week that five women were paid approximately $13 million in settlements by Fox News. Four payments were made to settle sexual harassment claims leveled against O’Reilly — and a fifth settlement was made in a case involving allegations of inappropriate behavior.
Baldwin, as O’Reilly, tried to throw to a reporter named “Laura.” We then hear O’Reilly speaking to his producer in his earpiece, “What’s that? Laura no longer works for the company? She got that check?”
And then “SNL” mocked O’Reilly for the numerous sponsors that pulled their ads from his show in response to the sexual harassment revelations. O’Reilly first coyly remarked that he doesn’t know why these sponsors left the show. He then thanked those two companies who stuck with him: “Dog Cocaine,” which featured an image of a dog snorting cocaine and “Eliquis,” a product described as “Cialis for horses.”
But the best part of the sketch was when Trump, also played by Baldwin via pre-tape, appeared on the show for an interview.
O’Reilly first complimented Trump, to which Trump responded, “I actually see a lot of myself in you, Bill.” O’Reilly then thanked Trump for coming to his defense against the sexual harassment claims.
As a reminder, Trump did defend O’Reilly when asked by a New York Times reporter about the settlements: “I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way.” Adding, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
So now back to the “SNL” sketch. O’Reilly next asked how he knew there was no sexual harassment, to which Trump responded, “A hunch … just a loose hunch.” Trump, when further pressed by O’Reilly on the actual facts of the case, responded, “I’m more familiar with this case than I am with, say, health care.” Adding, “But I didn’t really look into it much, no.”
That’s political comedy at it’s best. It’s funny and makes a powerful and poignant point. A fact-free Trump is blindly defending O’Reilly against the courageous women who came forward to make sexual harassment claims. As a reminder, Trump also blindly defended his long-time friend Roger Ailes last summer when over two dozen women came forward to report that Ailes had sexually harassed them when he headed Fox News.
But I have to disagree with the “SNL” line where Trump says to O’Reilly, “I actually see a lot of myself in you, Bill.” I’m not one to dissect comedy, but Trump is far worse than O’Reilly when it comes to his treatment of women — at least from every public accounting.
O’Reilly issued a statement earlier this week, which read in part, “I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity.” O’Reilly implicitly denied the allegations without addressing them head on, but made no direct comments about the accusers.
Trump, on the other hand, admitted to sexually assaulting women in the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. And then, arguably worse, after numerous women came forward last fall to allege that he had sexually assaulted them, he responded by publicly shaming and ridiculing the victims.
In fact, at one of his campaign rallies in October, Trump mocked the physical appearance of the women, suggesting they weren’t attractive enough for him to grope. And then he called the women “liars,” much to the approval of his cheering supporters. (One of the women Trump called a liar is now suing him for defamation.)
But regardless of who is actually worse in their treatment of women, it was daring of “SNL” to take on the issue of both Trump and O’Reilly’s alleged history of sexual misconduct.
“SNL” deserves to win several awards for its recent performances. In a single episode, the show does more to remind us of Trump’s history of sexism and bigotry than any other mainstream media outlet has. And even more amazingly, it does so while making us laugh.
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