Nikki Haley makes surprise appearance at

“Saturday Night Live” brought an unexpected guest to its New York City studio for the taping of this weekend’s episode: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. 

 Capping a politically-charged cold open that saw “SNL” stars Kenan Thompson, Punkie Johnson and James Austin Johnson respectively playing Charles Barkley, Gayle King and former President Donald Trump at a Town Hall in South Carolina, the camera panned to Haley, the former governor of South Carolina. 

Haley stood up from among the “SNL” studio audience with a microphone in hand, ready to question Trump on his record as “a concerned South Carolina voter,” as Thompson had introduced her. In real life, Haley and Trump are preparing to go head-to-head in the upcoming primary in her home state, which will be a crucial opportunity for Haley as she hopes to stay alive in the race to take on President Biden. 

“My question is, why won’t you debate Nikki Haley?” asked Haley, addressing Johnson, who was playing Trump. Trump has so far refused to participate in any of the Republican debates, and now Haley is the only candidate left in the race. 

CNN Town Hall South Carolina Cold Open – SNL by
Saturday Night Live on

Haley went on to lob a string of jabs and questions at Johnson’s “Trump” character, touching on his “mental competency,” $50 million legal fees in 2023 and political support in New York, which is Trump’s home state.

“Did you win your home state in the last election?” she asked, to which the fake Trump replied: “I won Staten Island, and the parts of Long Island where the fist fights happen.”

Toward the end of their bit, another surprise guest jumped up from the audience: Ayo Edebiri, the star of Hulu’s “The Bear” who won a Golden Globe and an Emmy last month for her performance in the show’s latest season. Edebiri was hosting “SNL” for the first time.

“I was just curious. What would you say was the main cause of the Civil War?” she asked Haley. “And do you think it starts with an ‘s’ and ends with a ‘lavery?'”

The question referenced Haley’s response to an actual question about what caused the Civil War, which someone asked her at a real town hall in New Hampshire last year. She did not mention slavery, and the error drew widespread backlash.

On “SNL,” Haley instead replied: “Yep, I probably should’ve said that the first time.” The presidential contender then segued into the show’s signature kick-off, “and live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”

CBS News has reached out to Haley’s campaign for comment.   

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