Media mogul and TV presenter of Bailando Por Un Sueño, Marcelo Tinelli. Photo via Sala De Prensa

Over the past few days, there has been an escalation of tensions between President Mauricio Macri and TV presenter Marcelo Tinelli. The issue stems from Tinelli’s criticisms of the Macri administration on air and an accompanying Twitter war, which peaked before last night’s new episode of TV program Showmatch (presented by Tinelli).

Showmatch is a very popular Argentine program aired on Channel 13, which produces Bailando Por Un Sueño (Argentina’s equivalent of Dancing with the Stars) and includes parodies of celebrities and politicians — this is in part why Macri comes into the mix. Tinelli is the presenter of the program, which enjoys some of the highest TV ratings in the country. He is also the vice president of local football club San Lorenzo.

So what happened? Basically, on the show there is almost always a Macri imitator (who’s pretty good, by the way) and lately, Tinelli has been very openly critical of the Macri administration on air. For example, when Macri advised people to wear coats inside to save energy, Tinelli said he “was wearing six pairs of socks” around the house. He also said that he “almost didn’t go [to the show]” because he was “too tired,” alluding to Macri’s near no-show at the Bicentenary military parades (he did go in the end).

Last week, the Macri imitator, Freddy Villareal, undressed on live television until he was wearing only a T-shirt and tight yellow shorts (the color of Macri’s Republican Proposal party or PRO). This imitation (which is kind of creepy: watch the video below) and Tinelli’s continued comments apparently crossed a line for some because the hashtag #TinelliMercenarioK, “Tinelli, Kirchnerite Mercenary” was born.

The accusation was that Tinelli wasn’t so critical of either former President Néstor Kirchner nor former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Tinelli, however, said that the hashtag had been created and encouraged by the government itself, stating on Twitter that, “[The government] gets nervous. [They] throw insults. They campaign from fake accounts. They make threats. I thought they were different.”

While Macri had initially been okay with Villareal’s skit, in an interview with La Nación on Sunday, he wasn’t so lenient on Tinelli:

“We investigated […] there were no trolls nor did the government have anything to do with it. But there were 30,000 Twitter users that criticized him. How could there not be 30,000 Twitter users that sympathize with the government when this administration is largely [made] from social networks?” said Macri.

“It’s unbelievable that he is offended [by these criticisms]. Tinelli satirizes me in a bad way before three million people on television [but] takes offense over 30,000 Twitter users,” concluded Macri.

#HoyApagonATinelli became a Trending Topic yesterday as a result, asking for people to boycott the show and thus affect its rating (it did not). This isn’t the first time that the show has seen controversy, after multiple instances of heavy criticisms regarding the objectification of women on the show.

“Learn to respect the President and pay your taxes you tax evader, ah, and I’m not a troll.”

Former President Fernando de la Rúa, who was also continually ridiculed on Tinelli’s shows, said that:

“These imitations on mass [entertainment] programs do a lot of harm, they want to undermine the President’s authority and replace it with the authority of show business.”

Tinelli’s reply was, of course, to make fun of De La Rúa:

It should be noted, however, that Macri is far more accustomed to being the center of attention in the media than De La Rúa ever was, having been a prominent businessman, the head of Boca Juniors football club and later, the mayor of Buenos Aires.

According to the Casa Rosada, the fact that Tinelli bowed out of the race to be the head of the Argentine Football Association AFA is a factor in the animosity towards Macri, as the President’s friend Daniel Angelici (current head of Boca Juniors) was allegedly one of the people responsible for getting him out of the game. However, the two have not exactly been on good terms since Macri’s former contender for President, Victory Front (FpV) Daniel Scioli, ended his campaign on Showmatch for the first election.

As a result of the controversy, last night’s episode of Showmatch was almost devoid of political commentary and with no political imitators to be seen. We’ll see if the upcoming shows are equally neutral.