NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - For some time now, President Donald Trump has somehow resisted the impulse to open up his Twitter account and take potshots at Saturday Night Live (SNL), the NBC late-night comedy series on which he is frequently lampooned.
But Friday morning (March 2), Trump's wellspring of reserve was at last depleted, as he was lured into an electronic war of words with Alec Baldwin, the actor who has portrayed him on SNL since the fall of 2016, saying it was "agony for those who have been forced to watch."
This was in response to Baldwin's first salvo in this exchange, in an interview published on Thursday by The Hollywood Reporter.
Asked how much longer he could continue playing the president, Baldwin answered: "Every time I do it now, it's like agony. Agony. I can't."
Baldwin added: "I could go out on the street, stand on any corner and tap 10 people on the shoulder. And all 10 of them, in all likelihood, would be more qualified - ethically, morally, intellectually and spiritually - than Trump. I'll vote for Mitt Romney. I don't care. Anybody over this guy. It doesn't matter. We have to get rid of him."
Over the years, Trump has had a love-hate relationship with Saturday Night Live, where he has also been portrayed by cast members like Darrell Hammond and Taran Killam and where he has appeared as a guest host.
But during his presidential candidacy and after he won the 2016 presidential election, Trump visibly soured on the show, writing on Twitter, for example, that it was doing a "hit job" on him, calling it a "boring and unfunny show," and saying that Baldwin's portrayal of him "stinks."
He also criticised the show and one of its writers, Katie Rich, after Rich tweeted a joke about Trump's son Barron in January 2017. Rich was suspended from SNL after the incident.
Trump had refrained from remarking on the show on Twitter for many months. But Friday morning, Baldwin's remarks were highlighted on Fox News, and Trump weighed in soon after.
In a Twitter post on Friday morning, Trump wrote: "Alec Baldwin, whose dying mediocre career was saved by his terrible impersonation of me on SNL, now says playing me was agony. Alec, it was agony for those who were forced to watch. Bring back Darrell Hammond, funnier and a far greater talent!" (An earlier version of the post in which Trump misspelled Baldwin's name as "Alex" was deleted.)
Baldwin, rarely one to back down from a feud, replied in a Twitter post of his own: "Agony though it may be, I'd like to hang in there for the impeachment hearings, the resignation speech, the farewell helicopter ride to Mara-A-Lago. You know. The Good Stuff. That we've all been waiting for."
In another post, Baldwin mused about the idea of a Trump presidential library: "Looking forward to the Trump Presidential Library. A putting green. Recipes for chocolate cake. A live Twitter feed for visitors to post on. A little black book w the phone numbers of porn stars. You're in and out in five minutes. Just like..."
Then he posted: "And Mr President... please ask your wife to stop calling me for SNL tickets. (Hey, Melania... we've got Charles Barkley this Saturday!)"
A new episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Charles Barkley, will be on NBC this weekend.
A representative for NBC declined to comment Friday morning.