Saturday Night Live Blames the Jews

An early version of the type of humour now found on Saturday Night Live.

It’s as predictable as mushrooms spouting up after rain: all you need is a global financial crisis and, presto, anti-Semitic tropes and ideas start springing up all over the place. The New Zealand blogger Maps pointed out  one example of this phenomenon. On a local Kiwi radio show a caller named Dean “argued that the ‘greed’ of a group of ‘Jewish bankers’ had caused the insolvency of American banks and the collapse of Wall St Shares. Dean claimed that Jewish bankers had also caused the Great Depression and World War Two, and that the Holocaust had been a ‘backlash’ against them.” Apparently other callers to the same show echoed Dean’s idea.




A much more significant example of this percolating anti-Semitism occurred on the most recent episode Saturday Night Live. A skit dealing with the Wall Street bailout ended with a revelation as to the true villains who masterminded the crisis and benefited from it are all wealthy real-world Jews, specifically Herb and Marion Sandler (identified by a caption as “people who should be shot”) and  George Soros, portrayed as a cold, arrogant manipulator. Described in the skit as “owner” of the Democratic Party Soros chortles over the fact that all the $700 billion of the bailout will end up in his pocket. He also plans to profit from the coming devaluation of the US dollar. As a parting shot, he uses his money to get a pretty young gentile woman to leave her husband and come to the aging financier. In sum, every stereotype of the evil Jewish banker is used in this skit. (The skit can be seen here.) [NOTE: That link is no longer good; SNL scrubbed the skit from their website. It had been posted on youtube as well but that has also been taken off from there also.]


Of course, anti-Semitic attacks on Soros are familiar enough in the rightwing media. In 2004 radio show host Michael Savage  referring to Soros said: “Not only are you a money changer in the temple of truth, but you are a deceitful, backstabbing, unpatriotic traitorous bastard in my opinion.”  On Fox News Tony Blankley  described Soros as “a self-admitted atheist … a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust. …He’s buying influence all over the world. He’s a robber baron, he’s a pirate capitalist and he’s a reckless man.”


What is surprising is this anti-Semitic narrative of a traitorous, amoral Jew who profits from destroying America found its way onto Saturday Night Live, a fixture of mainstream television for more than three decades. But a point is worth making on that front: the fact is Lorne Michaels, the producer of Saturday Night Live, has become increasingly right-wing over the years. In the current American presidential campaign, Michaels has given money to John McCain. Aside from the occasional sketch by Tina Fey (i.e. her excellent parodies of Sarah Palin) a lot of Saturday Night Live humour has a decidedly conservative slant. The entire thrust of the Soros skit is to blame the financial crisis on the allegedly hidden and Jewish controllers of the Democratic Party. (That Michaels himself is Jewish makes his use of this anti-Semitic canard all the more odious). 


A final factual point is worth addressing. Those who think Soros might be behind the financial crisis might want to consider the fact that he’s actually been warning for years, with great prescience, about the dangers a credit crisis. Far from causing the current calamity, Soros was one of those who tried to avert it. This sharp New York Review of Books essay addresses this issue.


(Thanks to Paul Starr for calling attention to the Saturday Night Live skit).


16 thoughts on “Saturday Night Live Blames the Jews

  1. This seems like a terribly ungenerous reading of the skit. On the other hand, it’s strange that they would use the name “Sandler,” shared by one of the most prominently Jewish former cast members.

  2. Is it possible that SNL was *parodying*, rather than promoting, the ridiculous notion that Jews caused the current financial crisis, much as the infamous New Yorker cover was intended to parody, rather than promote, the absurdity of the Obama-is-a-closet-terrorist rumors?

  3. I wrote a BLISTERIng letter to Sat Night Live… roasting their efforts at gleaning laughs from perpetuating the enabling of those who go on with the “Jewish Conspiracy” crap. Thank you so much for calling attention to this. I was appalled at what they did and I spit at Lorne Michaels, a Jew, for having naively playing into the hands of the virluent left. I left the U.S. in the 60’s fearing the right. Now I fear the right just as much…… more actually.
    The’ve been deceptive about their Antisemitism all along.
    Glenn Harbison
    Victoria BC

  4. With the money markets in such a mess right now, how could they have been so incredibly stupid as to have done what they did? Bush’s grabbing of the first election was the turn from democracy to oligarchy…… this is the switch from humour to pathos. You want to flagelate yourself, America, start with the politicians who have taken your democracy away. Don’t just stand there not knowing what to do and unleash the ignorant on
    those who will sacrifice anyone…… anyone for a laugh. Rome burns and Saturday Night Live fiddles on. America, you have very odd ways of taking it out on yourself. Glenn

  5. The Sandlers are real people who sold their company to Wachovia Bank and funded Moveon. org along with other left organizations. This wasn’t anti-semitic parody of Adam Sandler or anyone else, it was the truth and that is why SNL took the skit down. Even though I dislike the show, I must say that SNL is uniformly race and ethnically derogatory, hence the appeal.

  6. SNL has pulled it from their website…. I’m enjoying lower blood-pressure. Someone’s got conscience… or fear. gh

  7. I second the words of #7. If this were really a riff on “evil jews” or whatever, then the ethnic appearances and jewish-sounding last names would have been played up harder. A curly-haired couple named Weinstein or something would have fit that bill.

    This wasn’t so much an anti-semitic trope as a sharp, funny burn on two corrupt individuals.

  8. Give me a break! This is such a red herring!

    The skit was hilarious and I had no idea that George Soros was a Jew until I read your post. The skit doesn’t target Jews, it targets billionaires who exploit and rob other people just because they know better how the system works.

    Stop defending these people!!

    If you are concerned about anti-Semitism, consider all the ordinary, working-class Jews who are also being robbed by this bailout!

  9. For those who doubt whether the SNL skit is anti-Semitic, let’s compare reality with the skit. In reality, the global financial crisis (which is overtaken Europe as well as the United States) was caused by a variety of factors and actors: neoliberal ideology led to a de-regulation of the banking industry, bankers themselves set up a shadow banking sector, and highly placed political figures (Clinton, Bush, Alan Greenspan) pushed the housing bubble; the Sandlers were involved with this on a minor level while Soros himself constantly and publicly warned of the coming credit crisis. That’s reality. And on the SNL skit we get a different version of the story where powerful, rich Jews (the Sandlers, Soros) used their power of the Democratic Party to push bad policies, and then profited from them. Soros in particular is portrayed in a way that is highly reminiscent of anti-Semitic stereotypes of the amoral, cold, sexually avaricious, cunning and all-powerful Jewish financier. It’s this reliance on this old narrative that makes the skit a classic case of scapegoating: blaming the Jews for problems that have a wider political/economic basis.

  10. 12, You confuse storytelling with anti-semitism, and that’s not normal, or at least not healthy. (Your version of ) reality is just fine, but not everyone who tells the story differently is necessarily doing so because of racial hate.

    The Sandlers were chosen because they were representative of many rich people who benefited, or at least suffered less than average. If this were 1939 Germany, it might be ill-advised to choose villains who were (rather ambiguously, IMHO) Jewish, but we aren’t there, and this skit doesn’t move us any closer to there. All that we have here are the sort of thin skins that the internet seems to breed.

  11. so what? its unfair? we know it is. but you think all generalizations that Israel’s friends have been making about muslims is fair? when you pour gasoline on fire, you may catch fire yourself. and one cant stop the fire for himself while fanning the fire on others.

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