On CNBC this afternoon, John Harwood said of reality TV host Donald Trump:
“Yesterday Donald Trump was on our air saying he would have a major announcement about the race. It wasn’t major at all, turned out just to be another publicity stunt by Donald Trump appealing to the crackpot fringe of American politics that raises questions about Barack Obama’s American-ness.”
On MSNBC just after 12 PM, host Alex Wagner called Trump “a nutty conspiracy theorist dressed up as a real estate mogulist for Halloween.”
The cause of the comments was the “announcement” from Trump (hyped on CNBC and Fox News before they knew what it was) that he would donate $5 million to a charity of President Obama’s choice if the President releases his college and passport records.
The comments on CNBC and MSNBC are particularly relevant, because NBC and the NBC family of networks are by far Trump’s biggest booster in the media.
CNBC, the same network Harwood torched Trump on, hosts “Trump Tuesday,” where he spouts on about whatever conspiracy is on his mind that week, with only gentle prodding from the hosts. Early next year NBC will launch the new season of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” which features a motley crew of musicians, comedians and b-list celebrities sucking up to Trump to win money for charity. Sounds familiar, no? Do what Trump wants, and charities get rewarded. Don’t, and the charities are out of luck.
MSNBC hosts routinely trash Trump, and Trump bashes them in return (see the recent dust-up with Toure), but it doesn’t matter. CNBC will still suck up to him every Tuesday, and NBC will still give him a chance to promote himself for two hours every Sunday night. The MSNBC hate keeps him in the spotlight long enough for his next TV hit.
NBC’s family of networks are not alone in promoting the biggest self-promoter on the planet, they just happen to be the most egregious. Fox News Channel’s morning show “Fox & Friends” also hosts Trump every Monday morning, and Trump has appeared a few times on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” and “Erin Burnett Outfront.” Trump is tentatively booked for “PMT” tonight to talk about his “big announcement.” Morgan won the first season of the NBC reality show, and is slated to appear in the new season of the program as an “adviser” to Trump.
Trump boasts on Twitter that whenever he appears on TV he sends the ratings through the roof. This is not true. Ratings for both CNBC and Fox News show no correlation between his regular appearances and higher ratings. His appearances on CNN have also failed to generate anything statistically significant.
Our popular culture is one in which celebrities are given a microphone simply because they are celebrities. Ratings and rightness don’t matter, especially on cable news, where the goal is to fill as much time as possible. Trump epitomizes that ethos, in the worst way possible, and one media company bears the brunt of that responsibility.