Alec Baldwin, who reprised his goofy portrayal of Donald Trump opposite Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend, shot back Sunday at “the perception we’re mocking [the president] while he’s sick.”
Responding to criticism that the cold open lampooning the first debate was insensitive, Baldwin explained himself on Instagram. (Fast forward below to the 6:30 mark for the bulk of his argument.)
A few jokes subtly alluded to the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis. But Baldwin said that if Trump were gravely ill, the show “wouldn’t go near that.” His doctor and spokespeople were giving upbeat updates on him, suggesting he wasn’t in real danger, Baldwin noted.
“We only have their word to go by,” the actor said. “And if their word had been that he was in serious trouble, then we probably wouldn’t have done it. ... I can assure you we wouldn’t have done it.”
In the sketch, Baldwin’s loopy Trump at one point says, “The China virus has been very mean to me in being a hoax,” adding, “That statement will probably come back to haunt me.”
Carrey’s Biden declares: “I believe in science and karma. Now just imagine if science and karma could somehow team up to send us all a message about how dangerous this virus can be. Looking at Trump, he adds, “I’m not saying I want it to happen. Just imagine it did.”
As for the show skewering Trump for his combativeness and interruptions during the debate, that was fair game, Baldwin said.
“We thought the debate was something topical, and we didn’t have anything with him in a hospital bed,” Baldwin said. “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.”
The New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski was among those not impressed.
“Anybody who thought ‘Saturday Night Live’ might choose sensitivity in the wake of President Trump being diagnosed with COVID-19 was proven wrong immediately during the show’s uncomfortable Season 46 premiere,” the critic wrote in his review.
“Was the awkwardness of sending up a 74-year-old man who is hospitalized with a deadly new virus worth it? Hardly,” he added.