It was back in July when NBC Universal declared it would no longer be doing business with Donald Trump.
He wasn’t a frontrunner for president then; he was never supposed to be. His candidacy was a joke, and there was no reason to think it would ever be anything else.
We didn’t know back then how thirsty so much of the GOP primary electorate was for Trump’s brand of straight-talking xenophobic racism.
It was that racism that convinced NBC – along with a host of other major corporations – to cancel business dealings with Trump. In his campaign launch speech Trump called undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border “rapists,” and thanks to a concerted effort by immigration activists, Trump was widely condemned.
We knew who he was back then.
Now his racism is winked at, accepted as part of his impish Trumpishness. Trump says wacky things! It’s part of his brand! No need to take the horrific things he says seriously, even as he and Ben Carson battle it out for the lead in poll after poll.
This weekend Trump will come home to NBC to host Saturday Night Live. And why not? The outright racism of his campaign launch has become a punch line. The ratings are sure to go through the roof. I’ll watch, and I haven’t watched an episode for years.
Why shouldn’t NBC go back on its promise? Corporations don’t make moral decisions, they make business decisions. Back in July it was good business for NBC to end its relationship with Trump. Four short months later, it’s good business to have Trump revive SNL‘s flagging ratings, if only for one night.
But people can make moral decisions. And I’ve been nursing this fantasy that one of the cast members will take an enormous risk, interrupt the show – ideally, during Trump’s monologue – and on live television deliver some ugly truth right to Trump’s face.
Here’s what I’d like to hear:
“Mr. Trump, I have to interrupt you for a moment, and tell you I’m not going to do this show with you tonight. After what I have to say, I probably won’t be allowed to do the show ever again, but I still have to say what I have to say.
“You shouldn’t be on this stage. You don’t belong here. Richard Pryor was on this stage. George Carlin was on this stage. These were men who saw ugliness in the world and used laughter to make sure we all saw it too.
“You wouldn’t understand what they did. You can’t see the ugliness they saw. You can’t see it because you are that ugliness.
“You think it’s funny to call women pigs. You think it’s funny to call people looking for a better life for their families rapists. You think comedy is you looking down at people from your ugly tower and pointing and laughing at them.
“You don’t know what funny is. You don’t know what decency is. You don’t belong on this stage, and I sure as hell won’t share it with you.”
That won’t happen, of course. It’s too much to ask someone who has spent his or her entire career working toward the pinnacle of achievement for a sketch comedian. Lorne Michaels is still too powerful. The professional blow would be too great.
The cast, the writers, and the crew of SNL should never have been in this position in the first place. They shouldn’t have to grit their teeth and smile while working with someone whose overt racism is so ugly the show’s parent corporation essentially fired the guy just months earlier.
They’ll make jokes about the whole debacle, of course. They may even mock NBC execs for their craven push for ratings. But it’ll be gentle, all in good fun. A wink, a nod.
And Donald Trump, who never recanted his assertion that undocumented immigrants are rapists, who wants to deport every last one of them, break up families, and build a monstrous wall to keep them separate, will smile with the cast at the end of the night, thank the musical guest, and continue campaigning knowing there is no corner of American culture where he won’t be welcomed.