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Trump's 'SNL' attack crosses the line

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Bill Carter reacts to President Trump's complaint that "SNL" is unfunny and unfair. Trump asked, "How do the networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution?" Carter says Trump must have watched Alec Baldwin's impression of him on Saturday night.

Posted: Feb 17, 2019 11:40 PM
Updated: Feb 17, 2019 11:40 PM

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency because, as he put it, there's a "national security crisis on our border" marked by "an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs." With that type of calamity bearing down on our nation, you would expect Trump to be laser focused on the threat in the days that followed.

But this weekend, Trump managed to find time to watch NBC's "Saturday Night Live," which he notably hosted twice in the past, and then took to Twitter to not just slam the show, but to suggest there needs to be "retribution" and that the comedy show should be investigated. It was the latest escalation in his war on free speech.

He first tweeted Sunday morning, "Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!"

Then four minutes later, he tweeted in all caps -- telling us how he apparently now views the iconic comedy show as part of those threatening our nation: "THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!"

Could Trump be laying the ground work to declare another national emergency to silence SNL?! Aside from the absurdity of the idea, it also violates the First Amendment right to free speech, as the American Civil Liberties Union was quick to point out.

But before you dismiss the idea entirely, keep in mind two things. First, an Ipsos poll in August found that 44% of Republicans believe Trump should be able to close news outlets for "bad behavior." Do you have any doubt that if Trump called for comedy shows to be more "fair and balanced" in their criticism of Republicans, his base would not cheer? We might even see a majority of Trump fans support silencing "SNL," especially since the right has long viewed Hollywood and the entertainment industry as anti-Republican. (Of course, Trump and his base would undoubtedly never support forcing Fox News to truly be "fair and balanced.")

And, second, this wouldn't be the first time a GOP president used his powers to silence comedic criticism. In 1969, the liberal-leaning CBS comedy show "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" mocked then-President Richard Nixon to the point where the comedic duo made it onto Nixon's "enemies list." Nixon then used his well-placed allies in the ranks of CBS executives, including CBS programming chief Robert D. Wood, to get the show canceled.

So, what was it about SNL on Saturday that so upset Trump? Perhaps it was the show's cold open mocking Trump's emergency declaration. Alec Baldwin, playing Trump, said "I'm here to declare a very urgent, important national emergency. This is a big one so I don't want to waste any time. That's why first I want to blow my own horn a little bit, OK?" This mirrored what we saw during Friday's press conference when Trump opened the media event by first bragging about what a great job he has done on trade, the economy, etc., before getting to the alleged emergency.

And then there was this line by Baldwin that may have unnerved the thin-skinned Trump, because it so closely mirrored his own life: "In conclusion, this is a total emergency, a five-alarm blaze, which means I have to go to Mar-a-Lago and play some golf." Trump is at Mar-A-Lago this weekend.

My hope is that members of the media who interview Republican members of Congress in the next few days ask them point blank whether they would support Trump's "retribution" and potential investigations into how SNL and other comedy shows create their shows. It is important Republicans make it explicitly clear that Trump's war on freedom of expression is wrong.

But I bet many Republicans will skirt the issue -- responding with "no comment" or playing to their base by saying Hollywood has long been biased against the right. In either case, they will be emboldening Trump's attacks on the media at large.

I worked on the production team at "SNL" for eight seasons, at a time when the show comically filleted Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But never did either of them publicly complain the comedy was unfair. They understood that political comedy is part of the fabric of this nation -- even when they were the target of the jokes.

If Trump does nothing more than take to Twitter to slam "SNL" for its jokes about him, these attacks must still be called out. Why? Because they are more than just wrong -- they are un-American.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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