SNL sparks outrage with sneering take on anti-Semitism hearings that makes GOP Rep. Stefanik the butt of the joke – hours after UPenn President Liz Magill resigned in disgrace

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • The consistently left-leaning sketch show attempted to skewer the Republican congresswoman who grilled the university heads on campus anti-Semitism 
  • Penn President Liz Magill ultimately resigned from her post following fierce backlash to her controversial congressional testimony

Viewers were displeased following SNL’s cold open Saturday night, which mocked last week’s congressional hearings on campus anti-Semitism.

The opening sketch attempted to make light of the college presidents’ lacking testimony, but their efforts evoked few laughs.

Then backlash began online, where viewers slammed the sketch for attempting to undermine the seriouesness of anti-Semitism on US college campuses in the weeks since the October 7 terror attack.

The pre-written sketch was also rolled out just hours after University of Pennsylvania President Amy Magill – whose testimony before the House panel appeared to be especially smug – resigned in disgrace following a woeful performance these past eight weeks.

SNL newcomer Chloe Troast portrayed Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the chair of the House Republican caucus and a loyal supporter of former President Trump.

SNL newcomer Chloe Troast portrayed Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the chair of the House Republican caucus and a loyal supporter of former President Trump

In a moment that was meant to ridicule Stefanik’s hearing performance – which has generally been widely praised – she said: ‘I’m going to start yelling questions at these women like Billy Eichner.’ 

‘Antisemitism – yay or nay?’ she screamed at the three women playing the college presidents. 

‘Yes or no! Is calling for the genocide of Jews against the code of conduct for Harvard?’

The actress playing Harvard University’s Claudine Gay responded: ‘Well, it depends on the context.’

‘What? That can’t be your answer,’ Troast’s Stefanik retorted, echoing the shocking real-world interaction between the pair.

‘UPenn lady, same question, yes or no?’ she asked the actress playing Magill.

‘If you don’t say yes, you’re going to make me look good, which is really, really hard to do,’ she continued. ‘So I will ask you straight up. Do you think genocide is bad?’

iHeart Radio host Mark Simone wrote on X following the sketch: ‘Only a hate-filled, anti-Semitic SNL could do a sketch about the anti-Semitic college presidents testifying in front of Congress and make the questioner Congresswoman Stefanik the target of the sketch.’

‘They (SNL) – oddly – tried to skewer Elise Stefanik (who by all accounts won the day) as shrill. I guess I was under the misapprehension that calling a woman “shrill” was sexist,’ wrote another user.

A third disgusted user wrote: ‘Congratulate SNL, everyone. Since they haven’t been funny for years, they’ve now simply transcended comedy and become one big joke. Not sure what’s more pathetic, this vague attempt at comedy, or mocking those who stand up against Antisemitism at a time like this. Filth.’

As the sketch fell flat both live and to the online crowd, the real Stefanik was sending out a scathing indictment of Magill and the other university presidents following the news of the Penn president’s resignation.

‘One down. Two to go,’ she wrote.

SNL’s creator and longtime executive producer Lorne Michaels is Jewish and was born on a kibbutz in what was then British mandated Palestine, before moving with his parents to Toronto.

College presidents (Ego Nwodim, L, Chloe Fineman, R) answer questions from members of congress about antisemitism on their campuses during SNL's cold open

College presidents (Ego Nwodim, L, Chloe Fineman, R) answer questions from members of congress about antisemitism on their campuses during SNL’s cold open

SNL newcomer Chloe Troast portrayed Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Molly Kearney (R) played Representative Virginia Foxx

SNL newcomer Chloe Troast portrayed Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Molly Kearney (R) played Representative Virginia Foxx

The players attempted to mock last week's hearing, which saw the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn deliver underwhelming testimony to congress about combating anti-Semitism on their respective campuses

The players attempted to mock last week’s hearing, which saw the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn deliver underwhelming testimony to congress about combating anti-Semitism on their respective campuses

Harvard President Claudine Gay at the congressional hearing on antisemitism on campus

Harvard President Claudine Gay at the congressional hearing on antisemitism on campus

Testimony from MIT president Sally Kornbluth was widely criticized

Testimony from MIT president Sally Kornbluth was widely criticized

Amy Magill's hearing performance was the straw that broke the camel's back and finally cost her her job at the Ivy League - though she will remain a tenured law professor

Amy Magill’s hearing performance was the straw that broke the camel’s back and finally cost her her job at the Ivy League – though she will remain a tenured law professor 

Magill was slammed for her testimony, in which she said that reprimanding students who call for a Jewish genocide was not paramount – but ‘context’ specific.

She was asked a ‘yes or no’ question on whether calls for the genocide of Jews counted as hate speech, and repeatedly said it depended on the context.

On Wednesday she attempted to clarify her comments, but the damage was done: a wealthy alumnus withdrew a $100 million donation, and her remarks were roundly condemned by the ADL, the White House and politicians across the board.

Magill issued a groveling video statement attempting to explain her failure to condemn calls for the genocide of Jewish people on campuses.

She said she was not ‘focused’ on the issue, and said she wanted to ‘be clear’ that calls for genocide were ‘evil, plain and simple’ – although she said the blame lay with her university’s policies and the constitution, rather than with her.

Magill said: ‘There was a moment during yesterday’s Congressional hearing on antisemitism when I was asked if a call for the genocide of Jewish people on our campus would violate our policies.

‘In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies – aligned with the U.S. Constitution – which say that speech alone is not punishable.

‘I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil, plain and simple.’

The real Elise Stefanik (pictured) celebrated Magill's resignation Saturday by sharing a message that began: 'One down. Two to go'

The real Elise Stefanik (pictured) celebrated Magill’s resignation Saturday by sharing a message that began: ‘One down. Two to go’

Magill said she hoped to draw a line in the sand, and clarify her position.

‘I want to be clear: a call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so,’ she said.

‘It is intentionally meant to terrify a people who have been subjected to pogroms and hatred for centuries, and were the victims of mass genocide in the Holocaust.

‘In my view it would be harassment or intimidation.’

But, Magill said, it was not officially classed as harassment – a policy she said was outdated and needed review.

Magill pledged to work to update the existing rules.

‘For decades under multiple Penn presidents and consistent with most universities, Penn’s policies have been guided by the Constitution and the law,’ she said.

‘In today’s world, where we are seeing signs of hate proliferating across our campus and our world in a way not seen in years, these policies need to be clarified and evaluated.

‘Penn must initiate a serious and careful look at our policies.’

She concluded that she was ‘committed to a safe, secure and supportive environment so all members of our community can thrive. We can, and we will, get it right.’

On Thursday, as the House Education Committee said they were investigating the issue further, the board of Wharton – the world’s first business school, founded in 1881 at the University of Pennsylvania – said Magill needed to resign.

In a letter addressed to her, they said leadership of the university needed to change ‘with immediate effect’.

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