By Rachel Yang
October 05, 2020 at 12:50 AM EDT
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Saturday Night Live's season 46 premiere this weekend saw Alec Baldwin reprise his role as President Donald Trump during the show's cold open, which parodied his recent chaotic presidential debate against Joe Biden (played by Jim Carrey for the first time).

Viewers have praised the sketch, especially its portrayal of Trump's numerous interruptions at the debate, but Baldwin addressed those who found the jokes in poor taste due to the president's COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization this week.

In a lengthy Instagram video, Baldwin said that SNL wouldn't have poked fun at Trump's diagnosis if the team thought he was "truly, gravely ill."

"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," Baldwin said on Sunday. "They would have done something else. I've seen that happen before."

A few hours ahead of SNL's premiere, Trump released a four-minute video on Twitter declaring that he was "starting to feel good" and that he thinks he'll "be back soon."

The cold open only briefly touched on Trump contracting coronavirus. As the president, Baldwin quipped on stage, "The China Virus has been very mean to me by being a hoax, and that statement will not come back to haunt me later this week."

"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 only have their word to go by," Baldwin added. "And if their word was that he was in serious trouble, then we probably wouldn't have done it.

"We thought the debate was something topical, and we didn't have anything with him in a hospital bed, but we had the debate," Baldwin added. "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."

Baldwin continued, "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."

Baldwin has often lampooned Trump since the 2016 presidential elections, and last season he skewered the president's handling of COVID-19, which has taken the lives of more than 200,000 Americans. In 2017, Baldwin won an Emmy for his portrayal.

The cold open has since racked up more than 8 million views on YouTube, with many viewers also tuning in for the debut of Carrey's Biden impression. Maya Rudolph also made a cameo in the bit as Democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris. Chris Rock hosted the episode and Megan Thee Stallion served as musical guest.

Next week, Bill Burr is set to host with country singer Morgan Wallen as musical guest. Issa Rae will host the following Saturday with musical guest Justin Bieber.

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