Here is how it came to be that Larry David kind of sort of called The Donald a racist. When NBC announced that Trump would be hosting Saturday Night Live, several progressive organizations, 50 cultural and intellectual luminaries, and several members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus condemned the decision. The National Hispanic Media Coalition teamed up with organizations like Moveon.org and the Justice League to organize a protest outside 30 Rock the night of the show. The DeportRacism.com PAC joined in, offering $5,000 to any audience member who would stand up during the show and call Trump a racist. As organizer Santiago Cejudo put it, “We’re hoping the $5,000 will help people on set or in the studio audience find the bravery to speak out loudly and help focus the national conversation on that we need to deport racism, not people.”
Towards the end of Trump’s painfully flat opening monologue, someone yelled out, “You’re a racist!” An obviously unfazed Trump responded to the clearly staged interruption, by asking, “Who the hell is… Oh, I knew this was going to happen.… Who is that?”
At this point a spotlight revealed that it was Larry David, who had appeared as Bernie Sanders in the opening skit. No longer in costume, David said again, “Trump’s a racist.”
“Why would he do that?” Trump asked.
“I heard if I did that, they’d give me $5,000,” said David with his signature combination of disinterest and distaste. Trump had the last word, saying, “As a businessman, I can fully respect that.”
Many in the media have praised David for his yelling, with some even confusing an obviously prepared exchange with a genuine disruption. Variety magazine said, “Larry David provided one of the few real moments of spontaneity in Saturday’s episode.” Complex magazine praised the “legitimate burn by Larry David (a.k.a. The God),” and described it as “fantastic…something of an Easter egg that none of us could have anticipated but were nonetheless praying for.” The Daily Beast described David’s yelling as one of the episode’s “scathing Trump critiques.”
The Los Angeles Times could hardly contain its praise of David: “Maybe Larry David should run for president. After all the agony and ecstasy, the promos and protests, Donald Trump may have hosted Saturday Night Live, but David owned it, first reprising his scary-great Bernie Sanders in the show’s opening skit and then giving voice, literally, to the hundreds gathered outside the NBC studio at 30 Rockefeller Center.”
I have to admit that, as a huge Larry David fan who is well aware of his progressive track record, his mocking of Bush, and his support of The Nation in real life and on Curb Your Enthusiasm, I, too, wanted to see David’s act as a subversive anti-Trump protest. David got to call Trump racist! And I’m sure David does genuinely view him as a racist. But I couldn’t help seeing it as a bit of an inside joke between Trump and David at the expense of those who genuinely protested NBC’s decision to host a leading Republican candidate known for his racism and vitriol.