Saturday Night Live‘s 36th season premiered on September 25, 2010.  The cold open depicted a meeting between Christine O’Donnell, the Republican nominee for the Delaware Senate special election, and two members of the Republican National Committee.  Kristen Wiig portrayed O’Donnell and Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader appeared as the members of the RNC.

The skit’s humor came from the portrayal of O’Donnell participating in activities that would either be controversial or condemned during a campaign.  Skits like this one, which are a staple of Saturday Night Live, make jokes at the expense of celebrities and political personalities.  Such skits are parodies of the person and are  protected under the First Amendment.

Those whose lives are in the public eye and are subjected to media discussion have less privacy because of their status.  Status as a celebrity also provides that person the ability to access the media as the public has an interest in the lives of celebrities.  As a candidate for U.S. Senate, O’Donnell is considered a public official. (see Ocala Star-Banner v. Damron (1971))  O’Donnell also has status similar to that of a celebrity as she has made many appearances on television.

Political commentary, skits and cartoons like those that appear on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live and in magazines and newspapers are considered satire.  Some of these portrayals may seem to have the intent to show actual malice, however they are not subject to defamation claims.  Such portrayals are parodies and are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  The framers of the Constitution protected these rights in order to prevent censorship of the media and provide the right for the media to criticize the government.

Saturday Night Live’s long tradition of political satire began in its first season when Chevy Chase portrayed Gerald Ford as a clumsy man.  Since then, each political figure or celebrity has been a potential subject for a parody.  Christine O’Donnell’s status as a political candidate and TV contributor reduces her right of privacy compared to a private individual.  Shows like Saturday Night Live are protected by the First Amendment and therefore do not infringe on the rights of celebrities like Christine O’Donnell.

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