Something that often gets lost in the increased focus on outing prominent sexual predators is that Donald Trump is allegedly one of them.
A month before the 2016 election, the Access Hollywood tape broadcast to the world the then-candidate’s ambivalence toward consent. (“I don’t even wait,” he famously said, along with some more colorful phrasing now etched forever in the public consciousness.) These comments joined other Trump statements, such as bragging to Howard Stern about purposely barging in on Miss Teen USA contestants’ dressing rooms, to form an image of someone who believes women’s bodies exist for his groping. The Access Hollywood tape, however, ended up being a catalyst that spurred about a dozen separate women to come forward and make credible allegations against Trump. His response? That those women were too ugly for him to sexually assault. And somehow it worked. Donald Trump is now president, and the allegations against him have receded into the murky outer depths of his swamp of offenses.
One place that doesn’t seem to want us to forget is Saturday Night Live.
Now that sexual harassment is getting more attention than it has in ages, thanks to Harvey Weinstein, SNL is making sure Trump’s name remains in that conversation as well. During this week’s cold open, Alec Baldwin’s Trump took a shower with Paul Manafort (Alex Moffat) so the two could talk shop with no worries about wires. Once inside, the talk quickly turns to a joke about the president’s alleged behavior.
“Mr. President, I would never do that with you,” Manafort says, once the president invokes the betrayals in the movie, Gone Girl.
“That’s what she said,” Trump responds, a self-incriminating (and perhaps unintentional) nod to Michael Scott. He then continues, and his next lines form an SNL kill shot. “A bunch of she’s have said that. Speaking of which, what an idiot that Harvey Weinstein is. He could have got away with all of it, if only he had been elected president.”
It cannot be put in starker terms. Although the crimes Weinstein has been accused of are broader in severity and scope, it is not out of line to say these two men’s names in the same breath. Both are powerful men accused by multiple women of abuse of a sexual nature. Only one of the two men is receiving an appropriate amount of ostracizing and possible legal action. The other is the President of the United States (who, for the record, has denied all of his accusers’ claims).
The media attention around Harvey Weinstein hasn’t entirely eluded Trump. The Washington Post did a story about how Trump’s accusers are increasingly incensed over the lack of consequences for the president, as compared to Weinstein. One of those accusers has just subpoenaed the Trump campaign, asking to preserve any documents pertaining to her and Trump’s other accusers. However, when a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the charges, she confirmed that the White House’s official position is that all of Trump’s accusers are liars. It’s a moment SNL recreates in a sketch speculating about the heroic light Sanders may very well view herself in.
Taken together with the joke in the cold open, it appears SNL doesn’t want its viewers to forget about the seriousness of the accusations against Trump. It’s worth asking why it took Harvey Weinstein to make the issue relevant again.