There’s been a lot of hyperbole and hyperventilating about President Donald Trump’s most recent attacks on “Saturday Night Live,” but I’ll try to approach the subject dispassionately.
He’s an idiot who doesn’t have the slightest clue about the Constitution, the law or how this country works.
Whoops … sorry. My bad. I tried to remain calm. But it’s hard to be dispassionate when the president of the United States spouts off like he’s the tinpot dictator of a banana republic.
Apparently, Trump watched a repeat of “SNL” last week and then took to Twitter to complain that the show “can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me) over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side,’” and then went on to ask, “Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this?”
Oh, and he tossed in “Same with Late Night Shows” — an apparent reference to Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Trevor Noah and who knows who else.
What we have is a president of the United States who can’t take it when he’s made fun of, so he threatens government action against those he perceives as his enemies. And he has a history of making such threats against media outlets that criticize him or make jokes at his expense.
The fact is that “SNL” has gone after every president since the show premiered in 1975. There are those who believe that Chevy Chase’s mocking portrayal of Gerald Ford as a bumbling fool contributed to Ford’s narrow loss to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.
Carter was himself mocked, as were Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It comes with the territory.
Is Trump mocked more mercilessly? You can make that case. But he provides more material.
Certainly, it’s not fun to be the butt of the jokes all the time. But the only explanation for Trump being surprised at how he’s treated by “SNL” is that he’s only watched the show when he’s on or is the focus of jokes and sketches.
Here are the facts: Trump has tweeted about wanting “equal time” because of the Fairness Doctrine — which has not existed in more than three decades.
In 1949, the Federal Communications Commission instituted the doctrine that radio and TV stations must broadcast “honest, equitable, and balanced programming.” In 1987, the FCC repealed it. Both the Senate and the House, then controlled by Democrats, voted to make it law; Reagan vetoed the bill.
By the way, if the Fairness Doctrine had not been dumped, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity couldn’t do what they do on radio stations across America every day. However, it wouldn’t have prevented the rise of the Fox News Channel, because the FCC regulates broadcast TV, not cable.
But the bottom line is: There is no Fairness Doctrine. So maybe Trump is confusing it with the equal time rule, which remains in effect. If a broadcaster gives time to one candidate, it has to give equal time to his/her opponents.
That, obviously, doesn’t apply when Alec Baldwin parodies Trump on “SNL” or Colbert skewers the president on “The Late Show.” Baldwin and Colbert aren’t running for office.
Ironically, it did apply when Trump hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2015. Trump’s GOP primary opponents — including Mike Huckabee, John Kasich and Lindsay Graham — were given free time on NBC affiliates in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and invited to appear on “SNL.”
Maybe Trump is equating late-night comedians with candidates. Maybe he just doesn’t understand the difference. Maybe he just doesn’t care.
Mocking politicians is not just an American tradition, it’s ensconced in the First Amendment. When a president threatens to use the power of government against those who mock him, that’s downright un-American.