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Donald Trump Meets Willing Adversary in Samuel L. Jackson

Has Donald Trump finally picked a fight that may not pay dividends?
Image: Actor Samuel L. Jackson attends The National Board of Review Gala, held to honor the 2015 award winners, in the Manhattan borough of New York.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson attends The National Board of Review Gala, held to honor the 2015 award winners, in the Manhattan borough of New York January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew KellyANDREW KELLY / Reuters

Has Donald Trump finally picked a fight that may not pay dividends?

In the midst of his provocative 2016 campaign for the presidency, the Republican presidential front-runner has engaged in a very public feud with “The Hateful Eight” star and ubiquitous Capital One pitchman actor Samuel L. Jackson.

It all started when Jackson claimed in a recent interview with Rhapsody magazine that he’d received a bill from Trump’s National Golf Club even though he isn’t a member. He went on to say he’s golfed with Trump before and added that he was more “P.T. Barnum than politician.”

Never one to let a single slight slip by, Trump took to Twitter, denying any relationship with the popular actor.

“I don’t know @SamuelLJackson, to best of my knowledge haven’t played golf w/him & think he does too many TV commercials—boring. Not a fan,” the GOP presidential candidate tweeted on Monday.

It appears that Trump has poked the bear.

Jackson posted the bill from Trump on his Instagram account with the caption: “A bill from the guy that doesn’t know me & never golfed with me! I’m gonna Block his a** too!” Meanwhile, “Blackish” star Anthony Anderson came to Jackson’s defense on Twitter writing to Trump: “C’mon @realDonaldTrump you played Golf with @SamuelLJackson and me as well. we also had lunch together! shrimp and hot dogs. sound familiar?”

On Tuesday, Jackson appeared on “The Late Show with Seth Meyers” and addressed his “beef” with Trump again. “I met him a lot,” the actor told Meyers, countering Trump’s claims and corroborating Anderson’s assertion that the three played a round of golf together. “We clearly saw him hook a ball into a lake at Trump National in Jersey. And his caddy told him, ‘We found it.’” Jackson said Trump’s caddy didn’t appear to be wet. Allegations of Trump cheating in golf are nothing new, however.

The 67-year-old veteran actor went on to say that Trump has called him personally to invite him to play golf. According to Jackson, Trump would refer to himself in third person as “The Don,” and he once asked him to join former president Bill Clinton to play a round of golf in New York City. Jackson claimed Clinton “could also verify” that he knows Trump, who he said bought the ex-president a jacket that day “because he was a little chilly.” Clinton famously also attended the ceremony for Trump’s third marriage in 2005, but, now that the real estate mogul is a Republican candidate for president, he has recently started launching vicious attacks at the former commander-in-chief.

“If we can prove that Donald Trump is lying when he says he doesn’t know you, this might be the thing that finally brings down his campaign,” quipped Meyers.

“Let’s get on that,” replied Jackson, who had in a previous interview said Trump’s campaign was based on “hate,” but conceded “there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Trump would not let Jackson have the last word. “I don’t cheat at golf but @SamuelLJackson cheats—with his game he has no choice—and stop doing commercials!” he tweeted Thursday, although it was unclear if was admitting seeing the Oscar-nominated actor play in person. He then tweeted: “Don’t like @SamuelLJackson’s golf swing. Not athletic. I’ve won many club championships. Play him for charity!”

Jackson, who has described himself as “forever a Democrat,” has been a vocal supporter of President Obama in the past, and has made his intention to vote for Hillary Clinton this year public as well (although he “loves” Sen. Bernie Sanders). He also has a social media presence that easily rivals Trump’s. His 5.5 million Twitter followers is roughly on par with Trump’s 5.6 million. Besides being bankable at the box office — he is technically the highest grossing actor of all time — he’s occupied a significant cultural space as an acclaimed actor for more than 20 years, and his irreverence as a public figure has endeared him to legions of fans.

And Jackson is infamous for being a no-nonsense tough guy both on and off-screen. If “Snakes on a Plane” were no match for him, why would Trump be? On a more pragmatic note, voters in early primary states may be troubled by Trump’s delving into a petty squabble with a celebrity at a time when his national security credentials and ability to be viewed as serious potential president are routinely in question.

Clearly, Jackson seems revel in getting under Trump’s skin, and the fracas is only providing more free publicity for his new film “The Hateful Eight,” which is currently playing in theaters nationwide. Meanwhile, Trump, who has claimed to have the “world’s greatest memory,” is sticking by his story, for now.