In 2019, then-President Donald Trump reportedly asked his advisers and lawyers about what the FCC, the court system, and the Department of Justice could do to investigate or regulate SNL, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and other late-night comedy shows.... because they were making fun of him. You’re telling me that the man who spent over a decade of his career berating people on national television couldn’t handle being the subject of even relatively gentle parody??? HOW SHOCKING.
Trump’s petty desire to take legal action against comedy shows because they were *checks notes* being mean to him wasn’t the first time he’d expressed his displeasure over SNL. In a series of 2018 tweets, Trump wrote:
“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?”
I have to wonder what authority Trump believed the Federal Election Commission would have over Saturday Night Live, a long-running comedy sketch series that, as far as I know, isn’t responsible for overseeing any ballot boxes. After inquiring whether he could use the DOJ to stop SNL from being mean to him, Trump had to be repeatedly reminded of the fact that the “equal-time” rules that he referenced in his 2018 tweets wouldn’t apply in the situation of SNL, as satirical programming is not subject to the same requirements as other forms of broadcast television and radio. Although a source told The Daily Beast that Trump’s repeated inquiries were “more annoying than alarming,” it’s clear that the then-president was searching for some way to use the federal government to punish any television shows willing to criticize him.
When a second source briefly discussed this matter with Trump in 2019, they deliberately pointed out that even if these shows had been violating federal regulations, the Department of Justice would not be responsible for handling this kind of matter—a response that reportedly seemed to disappoint the then-president. “Can something else be done about it?” Trump asked the source, who responded that they would “look into it.” To this day, the source told The Daily Beast that they have not “looked into it.”