The Missing SNL Skit:

Last Saturday, SNL ran a funny skit about the passage of the bailout bill. It poked fun at the President, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Barney Frank, George Soros, and others. (Transcript and screenshots here.) Now the skit has vanished. (It used to be here.) It is the only skit from last week's show that is no longer available on SNL's website (or other sites at which SNL skits are available), and questions about the skit have apparently been removed from NBC message boards. It's also been pulled repeatedly from YouTube due to copyright concerns.

What's going on? Michelle Malkin suspects that NBC was subject to political or legal pressure, possibly from Herbert and Marion Sandler, a couple portrayed in the skit who owned a mortgage company that aggressively promoted subprime mortgages and was sold to Wachovia for over $20 billion in 2006. Even if the Sandlers objected (see also here), I see no reason for SNL to pull the skit. If, as Jeff Mapes suggests, it was pulled because the skit identified the Sandlers as "people who should be shot" in text along the bottom, that could be easily scrubbed. And if SNL pulled the skit for such reasons, why wouldn't they release an explanation? Perhaps one will be forthcoming.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I do not think any reasonable person would view the skit as "inciting violence" against the Sandlers. But even if the brief appearance of one line of text could be viewed in such a fashion, it would be easy to remove without deleting the entire 6-7 minute skit.

SECOND UPDATE: According to this story, NBC edited the skit to take out the screen shot calling the Sandlers "people who should be shot."

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The Missing Edited SNL Skit:

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 While no legal threat was received from the couple, Mr. Sandler did tell the Associated Press the skit was "crap."

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.

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.

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