It appears both “Saturday Night Live” and President Trump were in reruns this weekend.
The show re-aired an episode from earlier this season, and the president reiterated his suggestion that the Federal Election Commission or Federal Communications Commission should look into the sketch-comedy show’s “one-sided media coverage” of him.
“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,’ ” he tweeted Sunday. “Like an advertisement without consequences. Same with Late Night Shows……”
He continued, “Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this? There must be Collusion with the Democrats and, of course, Russia! Such one sided media coverage, most of it Fake News. Hard to believe I won and am winning. Approval Rating 52%, 93% with Republicans. Sorry!”
Trump first floated the idea of going after “SNL” in February 2017, tweeting that the show was “very unfair and should be looked into.” Later that year, he tweeted a suggestion that conservatives be given equal air time on late-night shows to express their own views.
Last week, Trump tweeted comments made by former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno on “Today” in which he lamented how polarized the late-night shows had become compared to his era, when he got “hate mail from both sides.”
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But can Trump even do what he’s proposing?
“The short answer is no, it wouldn’t really work,” says Lata Nott, the executive director of the First Amendment Center at the Freedom Forum Institute in Washington, noting that the First Amendment trumps the president’s hurt feelings.
“The First Amendment protects us from government censorship or punishment for our speech. Going after a late-night show for making fun of a particular politician would be a clear violation of that,” she explains. “While there is a rule that requires broadcasters to provide equal time to opposing political candidates who request it, that’s about giving all candidates the opportunity to buy airtime.”
The bottom line is this, Nott says: “There’s no legal obligation for a late-night show to have an even ratio of jokes about Democrats and Republicans.”
Furthermore, Nott calls Trump’s repeated threats disturbing, because they indicate “a lack of understanding from him that the First Amendment applies across the board to content that you like and content that you don’t like.”
If FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai responds to Trump’s latest request, she says it’s likely to be a repeat of what he told Congress in 2017: that the First Amendment prevents the agency from launching investigations or retaliating against media companies based on their content.
‘It’s called the First Amendment’: Pundits decry Trump call for ‘retribution’ against ‘SNL’
That’s not how it works: Late-night hosts answer Trump’s demand for ‘equal time’
Contributing: William Cummings, USA TODAY