Latino activists protest outside NBC studios over Donald Trump's hosting of Saturday Night Live

Members of Latino organizations rally against Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump outside the Trump Tower.
Members of Latino organizations rally against Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump outside the Trump Tower.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Latino activists protested outside NBC's New York studios on Saturday ahead of Donald Trump's appearance as guest host of "Saturday Night Live",saying the network was legitimising the Republican presidential hopeful's "racist" views on immigration.

The protest started at the billionaire developer's Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan and then participants marched a short distance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where the broadcast of the live comedy sketch show would begin at 11.30pm local time.

The former reality TV star outraged many Americans in June when he described Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug smugglers in announcing his candidacy. While he has made illegal immigration a main campaign theme, Mr Trump has also said many of his employees are Hispanics and that they love him.

"Immigrants are not the enemy," Ms Karina Garcia, a volunteer with activist group The Answer Coalition, told the crowd at the protest as she stood with the flag of Mexico draped around her neck.

Protesters waved signs that read "This Is the Face of Racism" and "Dump Trump" as they chanted outside NBC's 30 Rock studios in New York.

Mr Jaime Gonzalez, who works as a cook and is originally from Mexico, held a piniata made to look like Mr Trump as he said he was offended by Mr Trump's remarks about immigrants. "I've been cooking for 30 years and I think I deserve an 'I'm sorry' or an excuse," Mr Gonzalez said.

Hispanic-American groups and others say SNL's producers were giving Mr Trump a platform to take the sting out of what they say are his hateful views.

The long-running ensemble show will likely feature Mr Trump in light-hearted sketches poking fun at himself, his Republican rivals and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

An NBC representative has said SNL would not comment on the Trump controversy. A spokesman for the Republican candidate said the campaign was not commenting either.

Candidates competing to run for president in the November 2016 election have become regular guests on the late-night TV talk-show circuit and in cameo appearances on "SNL".

But making one the show's host is an unusual step that would further enhance Mr Trump's visibility.

An estimated 53 million Hispanics make up about 17 per cent of the US population and accounted for about 10 per cent of the presidential vote in 2012.

The bloc has favored Democratic candidates in greater numbers in each election since 2004, and Republican officials have been trying to appeal to Latino voters. Party officials have told Mr Trump his rhetoric is compromising their efforts.