The impact of Donald Trump's appearance on the show "Saturday Night Live" this weekend could be measured in several ways: the numerous condemnations it drew from Latino civil rights groups, the hundreds of protestors who demonstrated in front of NBC's studios against Trump's appearance -- or the episode's blockbuster ratings, the highest the show has received all year. Entertainment Weekly reported the GOP presidential candidate's guest host appearance pulled down a 6.6 household rating, reflecting a viewership nearly 50 percent greater than that of an episode earlier in the season featuring Hillary Clinton and Miley Cyrus. (The Clinton appearance was not advertised in advance.)
NBC spent the weeks leading up to the episode batting down criticism from organizations like the National Council of La Raza, a Latino group that called Trump's appearance a "slap in the face" to Hispanic viewers. The advocacy group Deport Racism PAC offered up $5,000 to any audience member who shouted "Trump is a racist" during the live show -- a call that was taken up ironically by comedian Larry David.
Trump has centered his candidacy around an uncompromising and at times strident attack on immigration. The billionaire real estate mogul has promised to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants and their families, some of whom are U.S. citizens. In his campaign announcement in June, Trump accused Mexican migrants of being "rapists," leading NBCUniversal, among other companies, to sever its business ties with the candidate. "At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values," the television network said in a statement at the time.
But that didn't stop NBC from approving Trump's appearance on "SNL." Sketches featured the Republican front-runner dancing to the Drake song "Hotline Bling" and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto paying to build a 2,000-mile wall on the border -- one of Trump's campaign promises.
Trump has slipped in polling in recent weeks, however, as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has gained momentum. But Trump's "SNL" appearance showed the controversial billionaire is still capable of drawing a huge viewership despite -- or because of -- his contentious public statements.