Nikki Haley Makes a Surprise Appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ – But Was It the Right Move?

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley made a surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live over the weekend in a skit in which she called out former President Donald Trump over his unwillingness to debate, his mental acuity, and more.

On Monday’s show, Megyn was joined by Kmele Foster, co-host of The Fifth Column, and Inez Stepman, senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum, to discuss Haley’s SNL cameo and what she was trying to gain from it.

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During the cold open on Saturday, SNL staged a mock CNN town hall event with James Austin Johnson playing Trump. Haley popped out of the audience as a “concerned South Carolina voter” to pose a query to the GOP frontrunner. “My question is why won’t you debate Nikki Haley,” she asked amid cheers from the crowd.

Johnson paid homage to Trump’s recent mix-up in a campaign speech in which he seemingly confused Haley with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Oh, my god, it’s her! The woman who was in charge of security on January 6. It’s Nancy Pelosi,” he exclaimed.

That allowed Haley to reference one of the more headline-making platforms of her campaign, mental competency tests for candidates over 75. “Are you doing okay, Donald,” she asked. “You might need a mental competency test.” Johnson joked that he “aced” the test and was told he’s “100 percent mental.”

The exchange also touched on Trump being ordered to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in her civil defamation lawsuit, his other ongoing legal battles, and his penchant for nicknaming his opponents, but it ended with Haley again trying to clean up her answer to a question she received at a campaign event in December about the Civil War.

SNL celebrity host Ayo Edebiri played a fellow town hall audience and aimed her question at the former U.N. ambassador. “I was just curious, what would you say was the main cause of the Civil War, um, and do you think it starts with an ‘s’ and ends with a ‘lavery,’” Edebiri asked.

“Yep, I probably should have said that at the time,” Haley responded before delivering the show’s iconic “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night” line.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time?

While aspects of the skit may have been good for a laugh, Megyn wasn’t sure what Haley was trying to accomplish with the appearance. “I don’t know exactly what audience she’s courting because I don’t know any Republicans who are still watching SNL,” she said. “Nikki, you’re not the general election candidate… You have not secured the primary nomination. Now is not the time.”

Rather than hurt Trump, who was clearly her target, Megyn wondered if Haley hurt herself. “I’ve got serious questions about whether this is a good idea. I really do,” she explained. “I like the Vivek Ramaswamy philosophy of going everywhere and trying to get as many votes as you get, but I’m just not sure SNL is one of the venues where there’s any potential votes available.”

In Stepman’s view, Republicans rarely come out ahead after appearances on SNL. “I think it’s great for conservatives, for Republicans to go into hostile territory and argue their point to an audience that hasn’t heard it before,” she said. “But too often what we see is… they go into it just to sort of yucking it up at their own base and, in this case, at Donald Trump.”

Rather than Haley bringing a right-of-center message to a new demographic, Stepman saw the SNL skit as yet another instance of Republicans “essentially ingratiating themselves to liberal media” and becoming a “prop” in a larger hit-piece. “I think Republican voters are really sensitive to that,” she concluded. “And I don’t think that’s going to help her at all.”

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Foster and Stepman by tuning in to episode 717 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.