The SNL skit on the bailout legislation was temporarily removed from the web so as to edit out potentially objectionable content as well as to protect Rep. Barney Frank, or so it seems from this report.
In an interview with Gold, the show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, said the Sandlers were distraught but had not demanded the changes. He noted the "People who should be shot" line was deleted as was a reference to their "corrupt activities."
But a comparison of the two versions shows that actually a little more than that was cut. What also was excised was any mention of the involvement of Massachusetts' Rep. Frank in the Sandler subprime mess.
Frank is the influential chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and an ardent political protector of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which participated in the subprime problem.
In the original skit Sandler addresses Frank, saying, "And thank you Congressman Frank as well as many Republicans for helping block Congressional oversight of our corrupt activities."
To which Frank replies enthusiastically, "Not at all!"
All that's gone in the new version, which Show Tracker has posted here.
I suppose the most charitable interpretation is that the dig against Rep. Frank had to go if SNL was to edit out any reference to the Sandler's "corrupt activities" — but why was this excised in the first place? As I noted in my prior post, the "people who should be shot" line was the only aspect of the skit potentially warranting any revision at all.
UPDATE: The New York Times TV Decoder blog reports:
Explaining the move, NBC said in a statement: “Upon review, we caught certain elements in the sketch that didn’t meet our standards.”
The couple had expressed their anger to Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of “SNL,” who told the Los Angeles Times that he did not realize the characters were real people until Monday. “When I spoke to them, I can assure you this: ‘They are very, very real,’” he said. “I think they were angry, I think distraught, I think they were not expecting to turn on the television and see that.”
He said the couple did not specifically request that changes be made to the video. Nonetheless, the graphic and a reference to “corrupt activities” were removed.
SECOND UPDATE: More from John Fund here:
NBC yanked the video off its Web site sometime early Monday. It appears NBC acted because it feared a lawsuit from the Sandlers, who are prominent funders of such left-wing groups as Air America and MoveOn.org. While no legal threat was received from the couple, Mr. Sandler did tell the Associated Press the skit was "crap."I am with Fund up until the last half of that last sentence. If this incident has any effect on NBC, I think it will a) cause the network to explain moves like this more promptly and thoroughly, and b) cause the show to be more reticent to make fun of those (like the Sandlers) who are not obvious "public figures." Once the Sandlers-should-be-shot angle arose, it seemed pretty clear that this, and not any political motivation, was the primary force behind NBC's actions.
Apparently, NBC acted pre-emptively to appease the Sandlers. It explains that the sketch did not meet its "standards." It has now reinstated the missing sketch on its Web site, having removed the "people who should be shot" line as well as a reference to "allegations of corruption" against the couple.
Veteran Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke says "NBC surely could have handled this better." While broadly accepting its explanation, she notes that "today's action may or may not silence critics like conservative commentator Michelle Malkin."
In my view, NBC may have acted appropriately, but its hasty response to liberal outrage over the sketch is likely to have a chilling effect on the network's future satire of leading liberals -- especially if Barack Obama is elected president.