Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
The “Saturday Night Live” season premiere proves that when it comes to powerful men being accused of sexual misconduct, the show has evolved – particularly since the 1991 Clarence Thomas hearing. Sadly, the same cannot be said for much of today’s Republican Party, which appears wed to a mindset from decades ago, blindly believing men while demeaning women who bravely come forward.
SNL opened Saturday’s show with a sketch about Thursday’s Senate hearings that featured the testimony of Professor Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Matt Damon made a surprise appearance as Kavanaugh, where he truly captured his demeanor as an adult frat boy. SNL’s “Kavanaugh” told us that he was a beer-loving optimist or, as he put it, “I am a ‘keg is half full’ kind of guy.” And we saw SNL’s “Kavanaugh,” like the real one, become evasive and defensive when answering questions about his drinking, responding to questions about if he ever drank to the point of blacking out by yelling back, “I don’t know, did you?! Huh, Huh! Did you ever black out?!”
But it was the reaction of the Republican Senators in the sketch that truly captured where so much of the GOP is today. For example, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (played by SNL’s Alex Moffat) stated, “Now, we just heard some very moving testimony from Dr. Ford. I listened to her and kept a very open mind. That is why I already voted ‘yes’ for Kavanaugh before she even said word.” Those comedic lines certainly conjure up the words of the real GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who stated last Sunday that he was still going to vote for Kavanaugh, unless additional evidence was produced.
And then SNL took on the issue of Republicans being apparently more concerned with optics than with Ford’s allegation – as GOP Senator Orrin Hatch declared, “The Democrats in this committee have acted like cowards.” “Hatch” then added, “Now, if you’ll excuse me I’d like to hide behind the female prosecutor we hired as a human shield.”
Of course, SNL couldn’t leave out the outspoken Kavanaugh defender Senator Graham, who was depicted by the always hilarious Kate McKinnon. “Graham” delivered an over-the-top monologue defending Kavanaugh, where he demanded that: “We put this man [Kavanaugh] on the Supreme Court now! No vote, no discussion! You give him a damn robe, and you let him do whatever the hell he wants!”
Overall, SNL’s cold open painted a picture of an unlikeable, evasive Kavanaugh whose credibility was questionable, being blindly defended by Republican senators whose primary focus was good optics and not the victim.
Contrast that to when SNL opened its show in 1991 with a skit about the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings.
The comedy in that sketch focused on the all-male Senate judiciary committee exchanging dating tips with Thomas, who was depicted as a likeable guy by Tim Meadows. Al Franken even appeared in the sketch as then-Senator Paul Simon asking if Thomas thought a secretary he liked would go out with him. The comedic point was that all men in power – Democrats and Republicans – were equally at fault in treating women horribly and that they sided with Thomas while showing little to no concern for Hill.
Clearly SNL’s comedy has changed over the past 27 years, but disturbingly it appears that many in the GOP have not. Just look at Donald Trump’s comments before the hearing, when he repeatedly praised Kavanaugh, calling him a “great gentleman” with an “outstanding intellect.” In contrast, at the time, Trump publicly attacked Ford’s credibility, saying it’s “very hard for me to imagine that anything happened” the way Ford has claimed. Trump even took to Twitter, in the days before her testimony, to smear Ford’s credibility – writing, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities.”
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And while there’s a one-week delay to allow further FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh pushed for by GOP Senator Jeff Flake, not one Republican senator, male or female, has indicated he or she is voting “no” on Kavanagh’s nomination. And that’s still true despite the compelling testimony of Ford, whom even Trump conceded was a “very credible witness.”
Clearly SNL’s comedy has evolved for the better over the past 27 years. Isn’t it time for the GOP to do the same?