Cecily Strong, a former “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) cast member, reportedly decided against reprising her role as Rep. Elise Stefanik in the show’s latest episode. Strong, who had been with SNL for 11 seasons until her departure in December 2022, was initially set to appear in the opening sketch of the live show but backed out at the last moment due to discomfort with the content of the sketch. The sketch in question satirized the recent congressional hearings on antisemitism at college campuses.
Replacing Strong in the role of Stefanik was SNL newcomer Chloe Troast. Sources close to the production revealed that the opening sketch, a segment traditionally written last-minute, was particularly rushed for this episode. This rush was evident in a minor mix-up with nameplates, which was later rectified in the online version of the show.
The decision by Strong to withdraw from the sketch was attributed to various reasons, with a source close to the TV industry commenting, “Cecily was uncomfortable with the sketch.” This would have marked Strong’s first appearance on the show since her departure.
In response to the aired sketch, Elise Stefanik’s Senior Advisor, Alex DeGrasse, issued a statement condemning the sketch as “antisemitic trash” and criticized the show for its portrayal of the congressional hearings. The sketch attempted humor at the expense of the testimonies given by the presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT about antisemitism at their institutions.
The skit included Troast, as Stefanik, making provocative comments about antisemitism and where hate speech belongs, including in Congress and on Elon Musk’s Twitter. The sketch aired shortly after UPenn President Liz Magill announced her resignation.
The sketch faced significant backlash online, with audience members from the dress rehearsal expressing disbelief at Strong’s last-minute withdrawal and the content of the sketch. Troast herself faced criticism on social media, with viewers accusing the skit of being inappropriate and even antisemitic.
Rabbi Shmuel Reichman described the skit as “the most embarrassing” he had seen, and Rabbi David Bashevkin noted SNL’s failure in assuming the joke is always on Trump, calling the skit a “fail.” The controversy highlights the delicate balance comedy shows must strike when dealing with sensitive political and social issues.