Former “Saturday Night Live” star Cecily Strong backed out of playing Rep. Elise Stefanik on the show this past weekend because she was “uncomfortable” with the heavily criticized cold-open sketch, sources confirm to The Post.
Strong, 39, appeared as a guest in the dress rehearsal ahead of the live show, then changed her mind “last minute” about playing Stefanik in the sketch, which mocked last week’s congressional hearings on antisemitism on college campuses. Newcomer Chloe Troast replaced Strong on air.
The opening sketch is always the last one to be written and Saturday’s was slightly rushed, according to sources. Indeed, there was a mix-up with the nameplates in front of stars Heidi Gardner (playing now-resigned UPenn president Elizabeth Magill) and Chloe Fineman (playing MIT president Sally Kornbluth), later corrected in the online version.
Strong’s guest appearance would have been her first time back since leaving in December 2022, after 11 seasons on the NBC show.
A TV source told The Post: “Cecily was uncomfortable with the sketch.”
Another insider added: “There were a variety of reasons, and last minute Cecily pulled out of the cold open.”
The Post has reached out to Strong and NBC for comment.
In an exclusive statement, Alex DeGrasse, Stefanik’s Senior Advisor, told The Post: “Elise did not watch it. However, her office was flooded with messages from thousands of Americans across the political spectrum — Democrats and Republicans — who were appalled and disgusted by the antisemitic trash spewed by unfunny, morally bankrupt ‘comedians.’
“SNL made history with the worst cold open ever because everyone knows there is absolutely no humor in the vile answers from the university presidents regarding their failure to condemn calls for the genocide of the Jewish people.”
The sketch attempted to poke fun at the testimony by the presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT regarding antisemitism at the nation’s top universities, but many viewers have now called for the show to apologize.
In the aired version of the sketch, Stefanik, as played by Troast, announced that she would be “screaming questions at these women like I’m Billy Eichner” before yelling: “Antisemitism: Yay or nay?” and “Yes or no: Is calling for the genocide of Jews against the code of conduct for Harvard?”
She then told the academic leaders that “hate speech has no place on college campuses.” Instead, she raged, “Hate speech belongs in Congress, on Elon Musk’s Twitter, in private dinners with my donors, and in public speeches by my work husband, Donald Trump.”
It aired hours after Penn president Liz Magill resigned.
One person on X was in the dress rehearsal audience and posted: “It’s been almost a day and I still cannot wrap my head around the fact I witnessed cecily strong back in 8H only for SNL to wipe any trace of it all in the span of 3 hours.”
After the sketch, Troast was hit by furious comments on her Instagram, with one writing: “That skit last night was disgusting. You tried to represent Elise Stefanik as the annoying/ bad guy. You should have more tact than that. The real hearing was an snl skit that wrote itself.. idk how you made it about your hatred for republicans and showed how little you care about blatant antisemitism.”
Another said: “I am embarrassed for you being forced to turn in that performance in what was a dud of epic proportions. It is not too late to voice your disdain for the production and writing team putting something forth that is so wildly inappropriate and even evil.”
“How dare you not speak out against the vile role you played in an extremely antisemitic sketch last night. You should be ashamed.” said another.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Shmuel Reichman said the skit was the “most embarrassing” he had ever seen.
Writing on X, he said: “Unfortunately, this is not surprising… SNL hasn’t had their finger on the pulse for about a decade now; they’re about as out of touch with reality as Liz Magill… This is probably the most embarrassing decision in SNL’s history.”
Fellow rabbi and writer David Bashevkin added: “SNL’s Achilles Heel is thinking the joke is always on Trump. I’m a SNL fan but this was such a fail.”
This story originally appeared on NY Post