UPDATE: The newly edited by NBC “Bailout” skit that ran on SNL is live online now.

On the past weekend’s Saturday Night Live, a brutal but hilarious Democrat-bashing skit aired about the $700 billion federal bailout and the insanity of those subprime mortgages, and it featured lookalikes for George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, hedge fund billionaire and big Democratic donor George Soros, and a parade of sob-story “victims” who turn out to be deadbeats, greedy house-flippers, and schemers. (The unedited YouTube version was taken down by NBC lawyers.) The sketch was embraced by Republicans for appearing to blame Democrats for the Wall Street meltdown. At one point in the sketch, President Bush (played by SNL regular Jason Sudeikis) even said, “Wasn’t it my administration that warned about the problem six years ago and it was Democrats who refused to listen?” (Immediately Barney Frank starts to complain… only to be hushed by Pelosi.) The skit was very obvious payback for all the Sarah Palin bashing this season on SNL which was trying to portray equal opportunity satire.

NBC put the video online Sunday morning. But then it disappeared off the network’s SNL website soon after. Needless to say, a lot of conspiracy theories were spun, real or imagined, especially by Republicans who wondered if the Democratic Congress, or perhaps Soros himself, were pulling NBC’s puppet strings. “If you suspect a few high-placed phone calls to NBC led to the bailout skit slipping down the memory hole, you’re not alone,” wrote right-wing commentator Michelle Malkin.

But anyone who actually saw that video could see this might be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Because SNL labeled Herb Sandler and his wife Marion, the real-life former owners of Oakland’s Golden West Financial (aka World Savings), as “people who should be shot” and accused them of predatory lending that brought down Wachovia Bank even though no charges have been filed. NBC told me just now they never received any legal threat from the Sandlers. [Though the couple did give an angry interview to The Associated Press about the SNL sketch.]

Instead, the network claimed: “Upon review, we caught certain elements in the sketch that didn’t meet our standards. We took it down and made some minor changes and it will be back online soon.” Specifically, NBC said it has edited out the chyron on-screen text, “People who should be shot” that appeared beneath the Sandler’ lookalikes, as well as the “allegations of corruption” made against the couple.

NBC surely could have handled this better. (Supposedly, NBC.com has been deleting questions about the skit from message boards.) Because the network didn’t, today’s action may or may not silence critics like conservative commentator Michelle Malkin who praised the skit as “hilarious, dead-on, and surprisingly honest” only to express outrage when it was taken down online:

“Where did it go and why? I have a theory,” she wrote. “One of the rapacious couples featured in the skit was Herbert and Marion Sandler (portrayed by Darrell Hammond and Casey Wilson). Unlike the other composite figures, the Sandlers are a real-life couple. Also lampooned: Left-wing billionaire George Soros. As Todd Thurman at Heritage notes, the Sandlers are left-wing moguls who built ‘a mortgage company whose major product was subprime mortgages and they sold it to Wachovia for $24.2 billion in 2006. And what do the Sandlers do when they are not peddling subprime garbage? They are busy writing checks to leftist groups like the Center for American Progress, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Yes that ACORN.’ The Sandlers are seething over the skit. And George Soros must be livid as well. Anyone else smell a legal threat behind the disappearance of the vid?”

Malkin went on, “The Sandlers have started to invest their billions of dollars politically, in the manner of George Soros, sugar daddy of many far-left wing groups and an early and prominent supporter of Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Soros has developed an empire of so-called 527 groups, putatively independent political activists groups that have influence within the Democratic Party. These 527 groups include the Center for American Progress, MoveOn.Org, Human Rights Watch, Media Matters and a slew of other like-minded groups… Soros, Lewis, and the Sandlers form a core group of billionaire activists and Democrat partisans who have formed a group called The Democracy Alliance. They realized that they could magnify their power by working in unison and tapping other wealthy donors to further their agenda…

“The Democracy Alliance is a major avenue to help them achieve their goals. The roster of its growing membership consists of a list of billionaires and mere multi-millionaires who collectively hope to give upwards of 500 million dollars each year to further promote a left-wing agenda. A partial roster of the Democracy Alliance membership can be found here. Half a billion dollars a year can purchase a great deal of influence. The Sandlers certainly know quite a bit about leverage from their savings and loan days. Among the beneficiaries of their largesse: Air America, ACORN (a group that has very close and long lasting ties to Barack Obama and has a long history of engaging in voter fraud. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (basically a private detective group focused on the private faults and foibles of Republicans), Media Matters, a media watchdog group that engages in harsh partisan attacks against media figures and articles it considers supportive of Republicans). The list goes on and on. They are not merely out to elect Democrats, but to also permanently realign U.S. politics and shift our society and culture in a far-left wing direction…”

All I can say is: sometimes sketch comedy is just sketch comedy.