Nikki Haley made a surprise appearance in the Saturday Night Live cold open tonight, this time as a “concerned South Carolina voter” who asks questions of Donald Trump (James Austin Johnson) at a CNN town hall.
The skit had Gayle King and Charles Barkley, hosts of CNN’s King Charles, moderating the town hall with the former president, with Johnson again playing Trump and with his propensity to sprinkle in political rhetoric with a pop culture stream of consciousness.
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Haley, who has stepped up her attacks on Trump following the New Hampshire primary, drew loud applause from the SNL audience as she appeared in the town hall audience to ask him a question.
“Why won’t you debate Nikki Haley?” she asked Trump.
Johnson, as Trump, replied, “Oh my God! It’s her, the woman who was in charge of security on January 6th. It’s Pelosi.”
That was a dig at a real Trump gaffe several weeks ago, in which he mistook his main GOP rival for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Haley has needled Trump continuously over it, suggesting that it is a sign that, at 77, he’s not quite with it.
In the skit, she asked him, “Are you doing OK, Donald? You might need a mental competency test.”
“You know what I did. I took the test and I aced it,” Johnson’s Trump said, defensively. “Perfect score. They said I was 100% mental and because I am a man. That’s why a woman never should run our economy. Women are terrible with money. In fact, a woman I know recently asked me for $83.3 million.”
Then, Haley said, “And you spent $50 million in your own legal fees. Do you need to borrow some money?” That was another reference to reports this week that Trump’s political action committees have shelled out that much to pay his mounting legal bills.
Trump responded, “Oh, Nikki, don’t do this. Nikki. Nikki. … Nikki don’t lose that number… Nikki Haley Joel Osment. Nikki Haley Joel Osment we call her. Sixth Sense. Remember that. I see dead people.“
Then Haley interjected, “That’s what voters will say if they see you and Joe on the ballot.”
The sketch finished with Haley making reference to one of her own gaffes. At a New Hampshire town hall in late December she declined to say “slavery” when asked what caused the Civil War. In the days that followed, reporters repeatedly asked her about the moment, as she and her campaign tried to clean up the gaffe.
This time, this week’s SNL host Ayo Edebiri asked her, “I was just curious. What would you say was the main cause of the Civil War? And do you think it starts with an “S” and ends with a “lavery”?
“Yes, I probably should have said that the first time,” Haley said, before getting the last words, “And live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
Haley later tweeted about her appearance, writing, “Had a blast tonight on SNL! Know it was past Donald’s bedtime so looking forward to the stream of unhinged tweets in the a.m.” Trump’s aide Dan Scavino Jr., though, noted that her tweet, which included a video of the skit, later disappeared. The tweet later resurfaced in a shorter version of the cold open.
“I see dead people.” That’s exactly what voters will think if this race is between Trump and Biden in the fall.
Had a blast tonight on SNL! Know it was past Donald’s bedtime so looking forward to the stream of unhinged tweets in the a.m. pic.twitter.com/W43LlPOoi2
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) February 4, 2024
Haley is now a long shot to win the nomination, given Trump’s polling dominance in the next states on the primary calendar. She is trailing Trump in the latest polls in South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary on Feb. 24.
But in stepping up her attacks on Trump, she also has gotten under his skin. That was apparent on the night of the New Hampshire primary last week, when she took to the stage shortly after polls closed to concede the race to Trump in a way that sounded victorious. About an hour later, he bashed her for much of his victory speech, attacking not just her second place finish but the dress she was wearing.
Going on SNL might irritate Trump further. Even though he hosted the show in 2015 during his first presidential run, Trump railed against SNL when he was president, particularly over Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him.
Haley is the latest in a long line of political figures who have done cameos on SNL, something that used to be a tradition for candidates in a presidential race. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each appeared on the show in the 2016 cycle, and Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama each guested during the 2008 cycle. Gerald Ford made a brief, filmed appearance in 1976, in the midst of the election that year. His press secretary, Ron Nessen, was hosting the show.
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