On Monday, The New York Times and others reported that Katie Rich, a staff writer at Saturday Night Live, had been suspended indefinitely by N.B.C. for sending out a tweet mocking President Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron. The tweet read: “Barron will be this country’s first homeschooled shooter.” Rich has since deleted it. She also tweeted out an apology, which said: “I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet. I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I’m so sorry.”
The reactions to Rich’s tweet and her subsequent suspension have been wide-ranging. Many have decried the tweet, claiming that children are off-limits no matter how much the parents are disliked. Perhaps most notably, Chelsea Clinton posted on both Facebook and Twitter urging people to leave Barron out of any insults. “Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does – to be a kid,” she wrote. Many have called for Rich to be permanently dismissed from the S.N.L. staff.
On the other hand, many comedians on Twitter have sided with Rich, leading to the hashtag “#keepkatierich.” While many of these supporters do not condone the tweet, they did not believe that Rich should be dismissed, and some believed that she shouldn’t even have been suspended. Some believe that the punishment by N.B.C. was too severe; because the tweet was just meant to be a joke and because Rich sincerely apologized, she should not even have been suspended. Many pointed out the irony that Rich’s tweet was an insult of President Trump’s son, and she has been suspended, while Trump has himself has consistently insulted people publicly, and his ascension to the presidency was obviously not hindered by it. For example, actor and comedian Jonathan DeBona tweeted: “Katie Rich made an insensitive joke & apologized… suspended from SNL. Trump suggested shooting Hillary… is now POTUS #keepkatierich.”
I’ve been thinking about this situation a great deal since the story broke. I’m not surprised that there is a wide range of reactions, because I can relate to all of them. On the one hand, I certainly think that Rich’s tweet was in bad taste. There is no reason insult Barron Trump; he has really done nothing wrong. Frankly, I feel bad for him, considering he has an egotistical, sociopathic megalomaniac for a father. Furthermore, if a comedian is looking to make a joke, President Trump himself provides plenty of material. And I do agree with Chelsea Clinton and others when they assert that children really should be off limits.
On the other hand, I am not sure I agree with N.B.C.’s decision to suspend Rich, and I certainly would never support them firing her. Sure, the joke was insensitive, but as has been pointed out, she apologized and regretted sending the tweet. Also, it was just a tweet. It did not actually hurt anyone. Katie Rich is a comedian, and just like many other comedians before her, she made a joke that some people thought was in bad taste. This does not mean that she is a hateful or bad person. She simply made a mistake.
These next four years are going to be very tough. Many of us, myself included, are deeply troubled and scared about what a Trump presidency means for this country. One of the things that can help alleviate some of these feelings is comedy. Seeing S.N.L. lampoon Trump each week is comforting; logging on to Twitter or Facebook and seeing jokes and witty criticisms of the president is uplifting; watching Seth Meyers dismantle Trump’s policy decisions is therapeutic. Katie Rich made a mistake, but she made a mistake while trying to bring a little more comedy into the world than there was before. While this does not and should not excuse her of the criticism she received, to lose her job over a botched tweet, especially in this socio-political climate, seems like an unfair overreaction. I hope that N.B.C. does not succumb to the pressure from Rich’s detractors, and they instead choose to keep Katie Rich.