By Amy B Wang / The Washington Post
“Saturday Night Live” had no shortage of hard news to draw from for the second episode of its 43rd season.
Country singer Jason Aldean made an emotional appearance in the show’s cold open, performing a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” It was a raw tribute to both the victims of the Las Vegas shooting massacre, which broke out during Aldean’s set during the Route 91 Harvest festival last Sunday, and to Petty, who died Monday.
Later in the show, the cast would turn to the political, doubling down on its call for gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting and lampooning President Donald Trump’s paper-towel-throwing appearance in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. There would be laughs for guest host Gal Gadot (of “Wonder Woman”) and accolades for musical guest Sam Smith.
But throughout the nearly hour-long show, there was no mention of Harvey Weinstein, the high-powered Hollywood film producer who was thrust (even further) into the spotlight after a bombshell piece by the New York Times on Thursday revealed decades of sexual harassment claims against him.
After the Times story broke, Weinstein announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence from the Weinstein Co., which he co-founded. One-third of the company’s all-male board quit, and its remaining members said they were investigating the sexual harassment allegations.
“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it,” Weinstein said in a lengthy and meandering statement that, at one point, referenced Jay-Z lyrics. “Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”
Particularly given Weinstein’s larger-than-life influence in the entertainment world, it seemed exactly the type of scandal that “SNL” might skewer. Except it didn’t.
The omission did not go unnoticed by people on social media.
Many accused “SNL” of having a double standard when it came to criticizing those who had been accused of sexual assault. Last October, after a leaked 2005 “Access Hollywood” video showed Trump bragging on a hot mic about being able to kiss and touch women freely because he was “a star,” “SNL” parodied the then-Republican presidential candidate relentlessly.
“I would like to take this time to formally apple-o-gize …,” Trump, played by Alec Baldwin, said in one episode.
“Are you trying to say apologize?” asked an incredulous Cecily Strong, playing CNN journalist Brooke Baldwin.
“No, I would never do that. What I am doing is apple-o-gizing to all the people who were offended by my statements,” Baldwin-as-Trump said. “But, more importantly, to the people who were turned on by them. I hear it’s really 50-50.”
The “Access Hollywood” tape story had broken on a Friday afternoon last year, leaving “SNL’s” writers with little more than a day to scramble and include it in the show the following evening. The Times’ story about Weinstein was published online Thursday afternoon.
As many pointed out, not even SNL’s “Weekend Update” – typically a roundup of the week’s top headlines not mentioned in other skits – addressed Weinstein’s growing sexual harassment scandal Saturday. The segment instead devoted several minutes to gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. It also managed to squeeze in the Trump administration’s decision to end a policy protecting transgender employees from discrimination, the impending shutdown of AOL Instant Messenger, the death of the world’s heaviest woman, O.J. Simpson’s release from prison and October being National Sarcasm Awareness Month. (“Cool,” deadpanned “Weekend Update” co-host Michael Che.)
The comedy show has rarely shied away from controversial topics before, including sexual assault, and in the past year has churned them out at a grueling pace. The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi has a roundup of “SNL’s” 10 best political sketches from last season, almost all of which had to have been assembled at the last minute, given the breakneck speed of political news under the Trump administration.
“SNL” has famously become one of the favorite targets of Trump and his supporters, who have accused the show of having liberal biases. Its silence on Weinstein will do little to counter those claims.
“‘SNL’ has mocked lesser known figures,” New York Times culture reporter Sopan Deb wrote Sunday morning on Twitter. “Weinstein is a huge Hollywood mogul. To not even mention in Update was curious.”
Representatives for “Saturday Night Live” did not respond to requests for comment Sunday morning.