Missing Justin Timberlake 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch Prompts Conspiracy Theories (Video)

Justin Timberlake in the cold open.
Justin Timberlake in the cold open.
 NBC

Saturday Night Live gently mocked the late Venezuela President Hugo Chavez during its TV broadcast, but NBC is not doing likewise on the Internet, choosing instead to refrain from posting the cold open to Saturday's show.

The decision is being used as fodder in some circles to accuse NBC of a left-wing political agenda, but insiders say the omission of the sketch at NBC.com, Hulu and other outlets was merely in deference to complicated rules regarding digital uses of musical rights. In fact, another recent sketch in which Adam Levine referenced music from Jason Mraz and Train also didn't make it online, nor did one where Bruno Mars sang songs from various bands.

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During Saturday's cold open on SNL's TV broadcast, host Justin Timberlake impersonated Elton John singing a version of "Candle in the Wind" with the words changed to reflect the life of Chavez, who died last week at 58.

In the sketch, Timberlake is seated at a piano, where he exclaims, “Everything in this song is true.” Then he sings about the socialist leader calling then-President George W. Bush the devil, how capitalism killed a civilization on Mars and how the United States is responsible for earthquakes.

"Goodbye Hugo C., you had such great style and panache, you were a man of the people, and you liked to wear a sash,” Timberlake sings.

NBC, though, has not made the video available online, and the episode on Hulu does not include the opening sketch. Some bloggers also are complaining that YouTube versions are being taken down.

All this has some conservatives asking if NBC’s decision to withhold the video is evidence of liberal bias or political correctness run amok.

NBC and Hulu did not comment on the controversy Monday, but insiders were dismissing a political agenda and saying the decision was all about musical rights that are held by Universal Music Group, which also didn't comment Monday.

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“Why has NBC scrubbed Saturday Night Live’s hit anti-Hugo Chavez skit?” reads a headline from Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze.com. A typical reader response -- "How many skits featuring Tina Fey mocking Sarah Palin did SNL gladly run? Commies."

Breitbart.com also says NBC "scrubbed" the sketch from Hulu and its website, and a headline at Examiner.com reads "NBC scrubs SNL's Chavez send-up."

See video of the sketch below -- though not from NBC.

It’s the second time in two weeks a controversy emerged over an SNL sketch online. Last week, Sears asked that its advertising no longer be attached to the "Djesus Uncrossed" skit that is a hit on the Internet.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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