Saturday Night Live, a show that is no stranger to political controversy, stirred up criticism over the weekend with a surprise cameo by Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor’s appearance, making fun of Haley’s earlier controversial remarks downplaying slavery, set off a round of criticisms on social media, with viewers questioning the show’s motive in platforming the Republican candidate. The fact that her appearance also featured a prominent rising Black actor, recent Emmy winner Ayo Edebiri, only added to the outrage.

The skit in question, which opened the Feb. 3 episode of Saturday Night Live, featured a mock-up of a Republican town hall meeting. Haley, playing herself and taking shots at both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, is then asked a question from a member of the audience of the fake town hall, played by Edebiri, who hosted the episode. Edebiri’s says to Haley, “I was just curious, what would you say was the main cause of the Civil War, and do you think it starts with an ‘s’ and ends with a ‘-lavery’?” The moment, an obvious reference to Haley controversially addressing a similar question in real life in December without mentioning slavery, allows the Republican to address he earlier misstep. “Yep, I probably should have said that the first time,” Haley responds in the skit.

The Haley cameo set off a wave of criticism across Black Twitter. One social media user questioned the judgment of Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels, asking, “Why is Lorne Michaels platforming Nikki Haley on SNL to make a joke out of her minimizing slavery, the most inhumane and immoral event that’s ever happened in American history?”

Others took issue with the inclusion of Edebiri and two Black cast members — Ego Nwodim and Kenan Thompson — who hosted the fake town hall. One person tweeted, “Why would Ego Nwodim, Kenan Thompson and Ayo Edebiri go along with this attempt to normalize Nikki Haley’s racism?”

Another poster noted the poor timing of featuring such a skit during Black History Month.


The criticism of SNL for platforming Haley is part of a larger critique of the show and other popular programs for helping to normalize right-wing politicians and their views. Most notably, Saturday Night Live has been criticized for featuring then-candidate Donald Trump as the guest host of a 2015 episode. Viewers and cast members have criticized the episode for helping to “normalize” Trump ahead of the 2016 election, which he ultimately won. Other guests, including 2022 host Dave Chappelle, have also drawn criticism from viewers and even from staff members of the show.

By itself, Haley’s quick appearance might not do much to help her overcome Donald Trump, who has a strong lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But in the eyes of voters, her appearance is part of a larger trend of downplaying problematic or even dangerous political views.