While most of the opening segment was dedicated to lambasting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over his now-infamous trip to Cancun, one brief joke made by Che sparked intense reactions on social media. The star commented on a recent headline about Israel’s efforts to vaccinate against the coronavirus.
“Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population,” he said. “And I’m going to guess it was the Jewish half.”
The joke referenced the fact that Israel has faced international criticism for largely excluding Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza from its highly successful vaccination campaign. It held up the shipment for two days as the government faced questioning from a parliamentary committee before ultimately approving it. Israeli lawmakers, however, previously suggested using the vaccines as a bargaining chip for the release of captives held by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.
It didn’t take long before Che received backlash for the joke, which many deemed anti-Semitic.
“Michael Che’s blatantly antisemitic joke tonight? Not cute,
@nbcsnl,” wrote one user.
“Michael Che being blatantly antisemitic on snl???? HOW IS THIS OK?
@nbcsnl,” added another.
“I was utterly appalled last night by Michael Che’s anti-Semitic dig. He’s offended the trans community in the recent past as well. There’s a difference between sharp comedy and what he’s doing. Time for some sensitivity training,” another user wrote.
“Really @snl? That Israel joke from Michael Che is NOT ok,” another added.
After his name began trending on Twitter, people also rushed to defend the comedian and praise him for trying to highlight the situation happening in Israel.
“Thank you Michael Che! Don’t give in to the critics! #SNL,” one defender wrote.
“Hats off to Michael Che for deliberately or not, raising an important question that is not being asked about Israel’s Covid vaccination efforts!” wrote another.
“Leave Michael Che alone. If you’re upset about that joke; wait until you learn about discrimination in Israel,” added another.
“Michael Che is a brilliant comic and opposition to apartheid shouldn’t be conflated with anti-Semitism,” another user added.
Che has previously been criticized for his jokes on “Weekend Update.” Most recently, he was accused of making remarks that were offensive to the transgender community over a Nov. 2 joke about President Biden ending Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military.
Michael Che is catching backlash for a joke he made on ‘Weekend Update.’
(Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
“President Biden signed an executive order repealing Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military,” Che said during the Jan. 30 episode. “It’s good news, except Biden is calling the policy: ‘don’t ask, don’t tuck,’ which is not good news.”
In addition to Cruz and Israel, this week’s “Weekend Update” segment also took jabs at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Mars rover, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s divorce and much more.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.