GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump remains slated to host this week's "Saturday Night Live" after the show’s parent company disregarded a campaign by immigrant rights groups and Latino politicians based on the billionaire's anti-immigrant comments.
The invitation to Trump draws "SNL," the four-decade-old pop culture fixture, into a controversy that has long dogged the Republican Party: How to harness the enthusiasm generated by the GOP's nativist elements without alienating Latinos and other minority groups often turned off by hard-line rhetoric.
There’s no doubt that Trump attracts eyeballs. Since hitting the campaign trail, he has blurted out controversial statements that have been enthusiastically embraced by many among the GOP’s conservative core. But those comments have been reviled by Latinos and viewed with dismay by the Republican establishment that hopes to diversify the party. Most memorably, he painted Mexican immigrants in broad strokes as “rapists” who are “bringing crime” and “bringing drugs” to the United States.
Those comments prompted NBCUniversal to sever business ties with Trump in June. But Trump's campaign antics have acted as media “ratings machine” -- a term he used to describe himself when he first hosted "SNL" in 2004.
Fox News drew a record-setting 24 million viewers to the first GOP primary debate this year -- a major uptick from the 3.2 million viewers who watched the first Republican primary debate last year. CNN charged 40 times more than the its normal advertising rate for spots that aired during the second GOP presidential primary debate, according to Ad Age.
Trump’s comments also have repelled Latino political leaders and turned off many Latino voters. Some say Trump’s strident style and derisive rhetoric has stoked an uptick in violence against Latinos. Two men in Boston beat a homeless Hispanic man in August, for example, saying they agreed with Trump’s call to expel all undocumented immigrants from the country. Trump responded by saying his supporters are “very passionate.”
Maria Alcivar, a student activist at Iowa State University, told reporters on a conference call Friday that Trump supporters surrounded her group of student protesters during a Sept. 12 political rally at which Trump was scheduled to speak, hurling insults and beer cans.
“One woman grabbed my face and told me I don’t belong here,” Alcivar said.
Immigrant rights groups and Latino advocates have launched a campaign against the network that aims to undo any short-term gains from Trump's appearance.
Activists have excoriated "SNL" over its record on diversity. (Of nearly 800 episodes of the show, Latinos have hosted only 19). The protesters gathered more than 500,000 signatures asking NBCUniversal to rescind the invitation to Trump. They plan to protest at NBCUniversal’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center before the show’s taping Saturday evening. Some say they will press advertisers to walk away from NBC and Telemundo.
“Moving forward, we want to continue to highlight what this means to the Latino community, to immigrant communities,” Juan Escalante, one of the organizers of the anti-Trump campaign and the director of digital campaigns for America’s Voice, said on the same conference call. “The fight continues through 2016 against those who continue to offer platforms for hateful speech and racism.”
NBCUniversal didn't respond to requests for comment.