I have argued that SNL’s bizarre invincibility against scandal is, at least in part, the product of an entertainment media ecosystem that functionally serves as an extension of NBC’s marketing and PR departments. This week we got to see the machine in action.
On Thursday, as you know, The Daily Beast published an interview with the woman who filed the lawsuit against Horatio Sanz and NBC. The article does not merely retread old news, however: it also hears from a second woman whom Sanz appears to have groomed over AIM when she was a teenager, at the same time he was allegedly grooming Jane Doe, at one point even referring to Jane Doe by name in purported AIM printouts provided to The Daily Beast. This suggests a pattern of behavior by Sanz: targeting super-fans online while he was a rising talent sharing an office with Jimmy Fallon.
Another source in the piece is a friend of Jane Doe who describes attending an afterparty in 2001, where “another high-profile SNL cast member” touched and flirted with her. This underscores the most important questions raised by the lawsuit: how normal was this behavior at SNL in 2001? How many people witnessed it? How many people enabled it?
In other words, the story was big. It contained both new news and important context for old news. For instance: Jane Doe reported her story to UCB in 2019, spurring the company to conduct some sort of "reluctant" investigation into Sanz. We don't know what came of this investigation, in which Sanz reportedly declined to participate. We do know that UCB co-founder Matt Besser continued welcoming Sanz onto his podcast improv4humans well into 2021. (Remember: it was in 2019 that Sanz texted Jane Doe, "Making out with 16-year-old is far from Kiddie fucking" and "If you want to metoo me you have every right.") Again the story illustrates exactly how many people have to look the other way for abusers to evade accountability.
It's typical for news outlets to write up posts about news published by other news outlets—this is called aggregation, and it's digital media's bread and butter. We saw it happen when the lawsuit initially broke in August; we see it happen every day about pretty much every major story, especially in arts and culture journalism, where nobody has a budget and everyone is writing about what everyone else writes. Below are the publications that aggregated the Daily Beast piece; note how many of them are tabloids and/or content farms you've never heard of (I've omitted a few that just republished other sites' posts, and also a few that seemed to be written by robots):
PrimeTimer: Woman accusing Horatio Sanz of grooming her as a 15-year-old SNL superfan says "he abused me all over Saturday Night Live"
Perez Hilton: SNL Scandal: Horatio Sanz 'Grooming' Accuser Speaks Out, Demands Jimmy Fallon Reveal What He Knew!
The Daily Mail: 'He abused me all over SNL': Woman who accused comedian Horatio Sanz of grooming her when she was 15 before sexually assaulting her, aged 17, at SNL after-party claims that Jimmy Fallon was aware of their inappropriate relationship
A few hours after the Daily Beast story came out, SNL announced, on Twitter, its hosts and musical guests for the next few weeks. Below are the publications that ran posts about that tweet; note how many of them are ostensibly legitimate culture news outlets and/or trade publications, that is, sites that actually have the power to shape conversations around pop culture:
Variety: Oscar Isaac and Zoë Kravitz to Host, Rosalía and Charli XCX to Perform on ‘Saturday Night Live’
comicbook: Saturday Night Live: Moon Knight Actor Oscar Isaac and Catwoman Actress Zoe Kravitz To Host
TVLine: SNL: Oscar Isaac and Zoë Kravitz Set to Host; Charli XCX Rescheduled as Musical Guest After Xmas Show Fiasco
Showbiz411: “Saturday Night Live” Announces Hosts, Musical Guests for Next 3 Shows Including Charli XCX’s Rematch
It’s a bit rich. In the lawsuit, Jane Doe alleges that as part of his grooming process, Sanz leaked her information about upcoming SNL hosts and musical guests to post on her fansite. Two decades later, it seems, the entire entertainment press has become one big SNL fansite.
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