5 Signs NBC Is Unofficially Endorsing Trump For President
The mainstream media is getting a lot of flack for not doing enough to stop Donald Trump's rise to the cusp of having all the power, and deservedly so. In fact, I'm going to that exact thing here today. But rather than focus on the news as a whole, I want to focus on one outlet in particular: NBC. I'm singling them out because it's not just that they haven't done enough to stop the potential threat that is Donald Trump's impending presidency -- it's that they're actively endorsing it, all while pretending they cut ties well over a year ago with the man they helped make a star. We talk about it on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Jeff May and vaguely funny person Dan Ewen. It's also what I'm talking about in this column here today. Up first, let's talk history.
NBC's History With Trump Can't Be Ignored
For starters, before you laugh off the notion that NBC might have a vested interest in helping Trump take the White House, please take into account that they, more than any other person or institution, are responsible for Trump becoming the celebrity that he is today. Yes, people knew the name before Trump and NBC's joint reality show venture The Apprentice aired, but he was still a personality that existed mostly on the weird outer fringes of the celebrity spectrum. We barely even knew he had weird hair until that show started.
Joining the NBC lineup made Trump and his larger-than-life persona palatable for mainstream audiences. They were the first to make the Trump brand seem normal, and their relationship lasted for more than a decade. During that time, the network's coverage of Trump was overwhelmingly favorable, even when the news surrounding him wasn't. A Media Research Center study found that, of 335 total NBC stories about Trump, only 15 covered his business failings.
I refuse to believe this actually existed.
They also found multiple instances of NBC reporting on Trump without disclosing their financial relationship, which is highly unethical. This was especially true of the few articles that covered Trump's businesses in a negative fashion. You can probably chalk that up to the fact that they had a vested interest in presenting Trump as one of the greatest business minds of all time. The show he starred in hinged on that reputation, and it's one NBC pushed tirelessly while promoting The Apprentice. In one especially over-the-top example, during a 2005 appearance on Today, Trump walked out on a red carpet as "The Imperial March" from Star Wars blared in the background ...
What were we saying about comparisons to Nazis?
... and Al Roker introduced him as "the galactic king of the universe, Donald Trump." So you'll understand why that same Media Research Center study referred to NBC's coverage of Trump as bordering on "cult-like" on several occasions. Not that the relationship was a one-way street or anything. For all intents and purposes, The Apprentice was mostly a really long commercial for the various entities and properties held by the Trump empire. He made them a lot of money, they made him a television star (and also a lot of money). You could even argue that he's been the biggest star on that network for a lot of years now. It's not like NBC has been killing it since the turn of the millennium. They've had a few amazing and memorable shows, but even then, people didn't always bother watching them.
Come back, Tracy Morgan.
Trump has been one of the most consistently present personalities at NBC for a long time now. At least, he was until the network very publicly severed their ties with him after he called Mexican immigrants rapists early in his campaign. For his part, The Donald claims they're just mad because they wanted two more season of The Apprentice and he wanted to run for office instead. Either way, by all public appearances, the relationship between Trump and NBC ended that day. But did it?
Related: Why Trump Can Just Get Away With It
They Fight, They Make Up
Donald Trump and NBC have had some fairly high-profile disputes over the past year or so, starting back when they cut ties over the eventual Republican nominee's insane "Mexicans are rapists" remarks. NBC issued a public statement at the time, and their criticism was withering:
Fine, I guess they didn't go that hard on him, but still, they did break up. Good thing, too, because we sure wouldn't want one of the major networks in this country having financial ties to a presidential candidate. Except if you look at the various public dust-ups the Trump campaign has had with his former partners, a weird pattern starts to emerge. Basically, whenever NBC publicly speaks out against Trump, he or someone speaking on his behalf makes a high-profile appearance on the network.
Case in point, do you remember what followed NBC and Trump's first fight? He got to host goddamn Saturday Night Live.
It wasn't immediately after, but who was expecting it to happen at all after the two parted ways in such a public and ugly (and sometimes litigious) manner? Certainly not the parade of Hispanic lawmakers who demanded an apology from NBC for letting a bigot host one of the network's longest-running and most beloved shows. They didn't get that apology. They got a meeting, but it was a meeting with representatives from NBC News. They said the decision was made by the entertainment side of the business, and they therefore couldn't apologize or speak on it at all. Helpful!
A few months later, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt was asked if he thought the episode's high ratings were worth having Trump on the show. His reply: "I think it was." He went on to add this:
Let the "Rodrigo Duterte for SNL host" petitions begin!
Speaking of Greenblatt, he was back on the "Trump is bad" train last month in a private Facebook post that somehow became public. A few weeks later, Trump was the beneficiary of that clusterfuck of a "Presidential Forum" on NBC. Matt Lauer was the moderator and, while he repeatedly challenged Clinton, even going so far as to talk over her a few times, when it came to Trump, he kept it clean. His most noteworthy concession involved letting Trump slide on an obvious lie about how he was always against the war in Iraq. There was plenty of criticism afterwards, but by then, the damage was done, and Trump got to add another notch on his bedpost, assuming that's how he tracks all the times NBC has made him look good. It's the kind of thing that makes you wonder whether NBC and Trump truly dislike each other, or if they just have to pretend to fight so things look fair and balanced.
Even Trump's long-running feud with Chuck Todd, host of NBC's Sunday news show Meet The Press, seems more like a series of planned confrontations meant to drum up ratings for an already booked but not yet announced future appearance on the show. The two traded words in June of last year, and Trump was on the show a few weeks later. Same story with any of their other, more recent disagreements. They fight, and then Trump appears on the show.
Of course, this is NBC we're talking about. They're the same people who brought you MSNBC, quite possibly the single most liberal-leaning news channel of them all. If they're going to show any bias at all in their interviews, it will definitely be in favor of Hillary Clinton, right? Nah.
Trump Has Appeared On Meet The Press Twice As Often As Clinton (And Gets to Talk Way More)
I mentioned in the previous entry that Trump and Chuck Todd have a history of feuding and then appearing together on Meet The Press. What I didn't mention is that those appearances, especially when compared with Hillary Clinton's, are hugely biased in favor of Trump. I know, that seems unlikely, but before you dismiss it completely, keep in mind that The Donald's most recent clash with Todd happened because Chuck thought Trump was "botching" a prime opportunity to attack Clinton by not mentioning the FBI's report on her email scandal, which criticized her use of a private server but didn't result in any charges. Of all the crazy shit Trump has said and done this year, that's what got Todd up in arms the most.
Naturally, Trump was back on Meet The Press a few weeks later, sitting for an interview that can be described as nothing short of pleasant.
If you don't have 19 minutes to kill watching the whole thing, let me assure you that watching a professional news person lob easy questions at Trump is way more infuriating than watching Jimmy Fallon do it. Time after time in this interview, Todd fails to press his subject for more details or further explanation on anything he says. Chuck asks a question, Trump speaks at length, Chuck moves on and asks another question. I know what you're going to say. "This is NBC. They have to be fair. Attacking isn't their game." Fine, then explain Hillary Clinton's absolutely brutal appearance on Meet The Press in 2015.
Todd comes out swinging right away by playing a clip of Clinton talking about wanting a more transparent government, and then going hard on the details of her email scandal. If she says something he doesn't agree with, he stops her immediately to ask more questions. They stay on that topic for more than 10 minutes, which is a lot when you consider that the full interview was only 16 minutes. When they do finally move on to a new topic, it's only so Todd can play an especially harsh video mash-up of all the times Clinton has flip-flopped on various issues.
It was so intense that even MSNBC broke with their liberal beliefs and tore Clinton apart over it the next day on Morning Joe. In other words, it's exactly the kind of interview we all wish Trump would have to sit through even once.
"They don't ask me the questions, so I don't answer the questions."
In fact, there's an air of hostility that permeates every interview Todd does with Clinton, which lies in stark contrast to the cordial manner in which he conducts business when Trump is in the interview chair. I say that based on my own personal feelings after watching all of the interviews the two candidates have given on Meet The Press recently, but it's apparently not just in my head. A writer for The Daily Banter tallied up all of the glaring inaccuracies in the show's coverage of the Clinton email scandal, and called on them to explain what appears to be an anti-Clinton bias in their reporting.
You can even find some weirdness in how the interviews are posted online. In most cases, the full interview ends up on one of the official arms of the NBC YouTube presence, no matter which candidate is being interviewed. That's true in all but one case, that being Clinton's April 2016 appearance. It's available on YouTube as two separate clips, one about strong words the Milwaukee Sheriff's Department had for Clinton, the other about her stance on abortion. However, according to this transcript, there was also a segment that covered Clinton's recent anti-Trump campaign ad. For some reason, that part of the interview didn't make it to the network's official YouTube page. I'm sure it's just an oversight.
Their Late-Night Comedy Shows Make Fun Of Trump And Clinton Differently
While it's not nearly as noticeable as the pro-Trump slant on Meet The Press, things also tend to break the Republican nominee's way when it comes to NBC's late-night comedy shows. As mentioned earlier, he's the only one of the two who's been asked to host Saturday Night Live. Yes, he only appeared on camera for 12 minutes, but that only one of them was asked shouldn't be completely dismissed.
For one thing, by law, networks have to give equal time to all candidates, and appearing on SNL isn't excluded from that. As a result, NBC was forced to provide the other Republican challengers the same amount of time on the network. They gave them that time over Thanksgiving weekend, when not a soul on Earth is tuning in to NBC during the SNL hour. Clinton has probably gotten an equal amount of face time on the show during this campaign, but again, never as host. Even if it's not the network as a whole, Trump seems to have locked down the Lorne Michaels vote.
Also, and I'm sure this is nothing, but Donald Trump, at least so far, always appears on The Tonight Show first. He appeared a few days before Clinton back in September (on 9/11, in fact), and was also first in line when the two made their most recent appearances. You find a few more subtle differences if you examine those individual appearances a little closer. Case in point, check out the skits the two appeared in their first time on the show. In one, Jimmy Fallon, pretending to be Trump, interviews Trump.
In the other, Jimmy Fallon, again as Trump, interviews Hillary Clinton.
It seems unimportant, but the difference is that, by pretending to be Trump, Fallon is able to interject all of Trump's most famous anti-Hillary opinions and statements into the interview, like when he says she "sounds like a robot" at around the two-minute mark. Trump characterized Clinton as a short-circuiting robot in a recent campaign ad.
Also, think about the single moment that was used to promote each of the candidates' most recent drop-ins on The Tonight Show. The thing that you saw in the accompanying pictures under the headlines about each appearance the next day. For Trump, it was Fallon tousling his hair.
For Clinton, though, it was Fallon wearing a surgical mask.
That's a nod to the rumors about Clinton's health. They're both jokes, obviously, but only one of them is built on a premise that originated with pro-Trump conspiracy theorists online. Speaking of that conspiracy theory ...
The Weird Disparity In NBC.com Search Results
More than any other major network, NBC was on the forefront of breaking the "news" about Clinton's failing health. I say they were the first, but what I really mean is that they were the only major network that would even come close to covering the story, and you can chalk that up to the same reason I put the word "news" in quotes -- because it's conspiracy theory nonsense. Nevertheless, NBC's reporting gave right-wing types the one thing they'd lacked previously when spreading rumors about Clinton's health, which was a "credible" source.
Media Matters was quick to criticize the network for "mainstreaming" a rumor that originated online, but that hasn't done anything to quell NBC's lust for this story. Just a little over a week ago, they were still at it, posting an article with the provocative headline "Hillary Clinton's Health Scare: 9 Unanswered Questions." Also, remember that batshit insane interview with Trump's doctor? That was an NBC exclusive.
So why wasn't there more racism?
You can also find testament to NBC's determination to make Clinton health conspiracies into real news in the search results on NBC.com. Here, have a look at the search results for Hillary Clinton from a few days ago, sorted by relevance:
Six of the nine top stories that you see without having to scroll down deal with Clinton's health, with the rest being reminders that Trump has threatened Clinton with physical violence and that she called his supporters a "basket of deplorables." There's also a Benghazi story, of course. You have to go all the way to the bottom to even find a story about her returning to the campaign trail.
Go ahead, run that same search on the website of any major news network. Hell, you can even do it at Fox News, and you won't get nearly as much talk about Clinton's health.
In other words, the story isn't even credible enough for the least-credible network on the air, but for some reason, NBC really wants to make it into real news. I wonder what that's all about?
Adam is telling jokes in Chicago, Iowa City, Omaha, Kansas City and Denver next month. You should come. Get tickets here.
We're willing to bet that Trump pools all of his money for a media blitz near the end of the campaign. Read why in Trump May Be Saving His Biggest (Worst) Surprise For Last. And see how Trump is taking his cue from internet trolls in How Actual Nazis Are Influencing Trump (More Than He Knows).
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