Trump's 'SNL' attack crosses the line

Article Image

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.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7894177
DeSoto693279
Harrison512983
Jackson450384
Rankin389486
Madison381293
Lee351479
Forrest300778
Jones289184
Washington256499
Lafayette248343
Lauderdale2437134
Lamar224238
Oktibbeha200854
Bolivar200477
Neshoba1842111
Lowndes178362
Panola169139
Leflore165887
Sunflower160949
Warren154355
Monroe148172
Pontotoc146119
Marshall141229
Lincoln138957
Pike138256
Copiah136936
Coahoma124936
Scott124929
Yazoo121733
Grenada121638
Simpson121249
Union117425
Tate116039
Leake114640
Holmes114460
Pearl River112959
Itawamba112225
Adams107343
Prentiss104819
Wayne100821
Alcorn98712
George97918
Covington97026
Marion94642
Tippah88922
Newton85627
Chickasaw84026
Tallahatchie84025
Winston83321
Hancock81628
Tishomingo80041
Attala79026
Clarke74351
Clay68421
Jasper67917
Walthall63827
Calhoun62212
Noxubee59617
Smith59116
Montgomery54323
Claiborne53716
Tunica52917
Yalobusha52614
Lawrence51214
Perry48723
Carroll48012
Greene47318
Stone46414
Humphreys42816
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40511
Webster37013
Wilkinson33720
Benton3335
Kemper32215
Sharkey28314
Jefferson27510
Franklin2403
Choctaw2056
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22988375
Mobile16788315
Tuscaloosa10235140
Montgomery9978197
Madison922894
Shelby727463
Baldwin661569
Lee651765
Marshall437249
Calhoun422461
Etowah421450
Morgan407135
Houston371734
DeKalb336029
Elmore317353
St. Clair289142
Limestone279730
Walker275593
Talladega263635
Cullman239925
Lauderdale218042
Jackson212515
Franklin203231
Autauga203030
Colbert198731
Russell19283
Blount191125
Dallas186327
Chilton185832
Coffee173211
Escambia172230
Covington171429
Dale166551
Chambers134343
Clarke133617
Pike132713
Tallapoosa131387
Marion107129
Barbour10129
Butler100240
Marengo100222
Winston91913
Geneva8617
Lawrence83732
Pickens83618
Bibb82514
Randolph82016
Hale75830
Clay73612
Washington73412
Cherokee73114
Lowndes70428
Monroe64510
Henry6436
Bullock63917
Crenshaw60330
Perry5856
Fayette56913
Wilcox56412
Conecuh56013
Cleburne5518
Macon53020
Lamar4745
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Columbus
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 57°
Oxford
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 45°
Starkville
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 54°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather