Through the 2016 election and Donald Trump’s presidency, Alec Baldwin’s satirical portrayal of the one-term Commander-in-Chief earned Saturday Night Live some of its best ratings.
Of course, the extremely sensitive Trump hated being mocked week after week, and he made it clear publicly (i.e. on Twitter) that he felt the show should experience very real consequences.
According to a recent report by the Daily Beast, Trump’s angry tweets about SNL weren’t just tantrums. Instead, he actually wanted to utilize the powers of the federal government to pursue legal action.
In 2019, Trump tweeted, “It’s truly incredible that shows like Saturday Night Live, not funny/no talent, can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side.’ Like an advertisement without consequences. Same with Late Night Shows. Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this?”
And apparently, he then enlisted the help of his advisers to determine if anything could actually be done. He asked them about pursuing action through the Federal Communications Commission, the courts, and even the Department of Justice.
He wanted action taken not only against SNL, but also against late-night comedy hosts like Jimmy Kimmel who also mocked him nightly.
But as the Daily Beast article explained, SNL’s obvious satire makes it a form of protected speech, meaning Trump had no power to do anything about it and that SNL hurting his feelings was not a crime.
Two sources spoke with the Daily Beast about Trump’s determination to punish SNL. One of them called his behavior “more annoying than alarming.” The other, who has a law degree, said that despite Trump’s pushes for them to look into whether something could be done, they more or less brushed him off.
Trump reportedly was focused on the rule of “equal-time,” a law that says networks must offer equal time to opposing political candidates and does not apply to satire.
Trump also tried to retaliate against NBC through repeated attacks against its parent company, Comcast, attacks that started while he was running for president in 2016 and continued through his presidency.
The Daily Beast said Trump caused a small trading panic in 2018 when he tweeted, “American Cable Association has big problems with Comcast. They say that Comcast routinely violates Antitrust Laws.”
But the markets eventually grew accustomed to Trump’s erratic behavior, and, the report concluded, his attacks stopped having much effect.