The nation was thrown into turmoil last week when Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19. The public reaction was a mixture of sympathy and barely concealed glee, with many concluding that he had had this coming for a while. But Trump being hospitalized raised a thorny dilemma for SNL: if you’ve got sketches mocking him ready to go, do you cancel them and wait until the President has recovered?
They decided to air them and the show opened with a parody of the chaotic presidential debate starring Alec Baldwin as Trump and Jim Carrey making his debut as Joe Biden. The sketch even made light of Trump’s diagnosis, drawing complaints from his supporters that this was disrespectful.
Now, Baldwin has made a lengthy statement commenting on the issue via Instagram, saying:
“If there was ever the suggestion that Trump was truly, gravely ill, and people said, ‘Trump is really in trouble,’ then I would bet you everything I have that we wouldn’t even get near that, in terms of content of the show. They would have done something else. I’ve seen that happen before. … We only have the words of the White House itself and the people who work there themselves to go on, and all of them have all been saying he isn’t in any danger.”
“We thought the debate was something topical, and we didn’t have anything with him in a hospital bed, but we had the debate. You’d have to have a very good reason to avoid that, topicality-wise, and nobody thought that they were mocking somebody’s illness by doing that. … There are a lot of people out there who have the deepest amount of animosity I could possibly calculate in my adult life toward Trump, but there’s a line they won’t cross. They wouldn’t say, ‘I wish something happened to him,’ or that he died, or whatever. And people who do that, that’s not the way it should be.”
That seems fair enough, especially given that Trump himself has been tweeting that he feels fine, posting videos of him apparently in good spirits and is now claiming that he may be “immune” to COVID-19. If he doesn’t want people treating him like he’s a very ill man, then presumably he and his fans wouldn’t want SNL to censor their coverage of him for sympathetic reasons.
But that philosophy may be put to the test over the coming week. As we saw in last night’s disturbing footage from the White House, Trump is adamant that he’s now absolutely fine despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. Word is that he’s currently propped up on a combination of experimental drugs and powerful steroids that cause delusions of grandeur and potentially psychosis. So, uh, business as usual I guess?
By next Friday, Trump’s behavior is either going to result in one of the weirdest opening sketches on SNL history or a solemn tribute to a deceased President. Strap in folks, because this rollercoaster is about to plunge into crazy town.