Donald Trump Calls For ‘Retribution’ Against ‘SNL,’ But Saddam Hussein Also Once Attacked Political Comedians

In an angry Twitter post on Sunday, Donald Trump appeared to challenge the First Amendment right to satirize public figures.

Donald Trump pumps his fist.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

In an angry Twitter post on Sunday, Donald Trump appeared to challenge the First Amendment right to satirize public figures.

Less than one week ago, Donald Trump took to his Twitter account to ridicule Democrats as “self righteous and angry,” telling them, “Loosen up and have some fun. The Country is doing well!” But on Sunday, just six days later, Trump himself appeared angry after the long-running NBC TV late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live aired the latest in a long series of satirical skits in which actor Alec Baldwin parodies Trump.

In the skit, which aired on Saturday, February 16, Baldwin satirized Trump’s appearance the previous day, in which Trump announced a declaration of “national emergency, as Inquisitr reported.

“Wall works, wall makes safe,” Baldwin, in his “Trump” guise, said in the satirical skit, as quoted by the Washington Post. “You don’t have to be smart to understand that — in fact, it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

The parody apparently enraged Trump — “as Baldwin’s performances often have,” the Post noted — and on Sunday morning at 7:52 a.m., Trump took to his Twitter account to suggest “retribution” against the show and the network, NBC.

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!” Trump wrote. “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!”

While Trump did not say what the “retribution” would consist of, or what it would mean for NBC to be “looked into,” political autocrats have a long history of retaliating against political satirists, perhaps most dramatically exemplified by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, as the BBC recounted.

Following the first Gulf War in 1991, when Kurds took control of northern Iraq, Guardian reporter Luke Harding recounted, political comedian Mahir Hassan Rashid made a film satirizing Hussein and aired the finished product on Kurdish television.

The Iraqi dictator was outraged, and according to Harding’s report, dispatched a team of assassins to kill Hasan Rashid — along with the film’s entire cast. Fortunately for the filmmakers, Kurdish police intercepted and arrested the assassins before they could carry out the dictator’s orders.

Saddam Hussein listens at his 2005 trial.
  Iraq Special Tribunal / Getty Images

In Italy, in 2001, when the country’s richest man Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister, comedian Roberto Benigni appeared on a talk show hosted by journalist Enzo Biagi, and in an interview, openly laughed at Berlusconi. Biagi also joined in the laughter, as the Guardian recounted.

Within a year, according to the New York Times, Berlusconi accused Biagi of using his interview program for “criminal” purposes, and Biagi’s show was immediately canceled and never aired again.

Silvio Berlusconi as he appeared in 2001.
  Pool / Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has frequently been praised by Trump as Inquisitr has reported, has also taken a similar approach to political satire.

“Political satire comes under particular scrutiny in Russia. In the 16 years of Putin’s rule, many Russian comedy shows have suddenly been axed; others have been subject to restrictions,” wrote the Moscow Times in a 2016 report on the status of political satire in Russia. “Perhaps the first prominent victim of the new rules was the ‘Kukly’ puppet satire show, which featured an unflattering puppet of the president, and was pulled early in Putin’s reign.”

In the United States, however, the First Amendment to the Constitution protects the freedom to criticize and even satirize public officials and political figures up to and including the president. Satire has been seen as especially worthy of protection by the Supreme Court, according to the First Amendment Encyclopedia.

In the 1988 case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, according to the Encyclopedia, the court, then led by conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist, ruled that the pornographic magazine Hustler was protected when it published a parody of the “Moral Majority” leader Jerry Falwell, in which Falwell was depicted as confessing that his first sexual experience was “a drunken incestuous encounter with his mother in an outhouse.”