NBC famously cut ties with Donald Trump last year, following the presidential candidate’s controversial comments about immigrants, ending his “Apprentice” run and letting go of the Trump-produced Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants.
“Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump. At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” the network’s statement read, at the time of Trump’s falling out. NBC will replace Trump with Arnold Schwarzenegger as host of “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Since that statement was released, Trump has been very much back in business with NBC from hosting “Saturday Night Live” to having a guest spot on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show.”
“If we were in the business of never having anyone guest on the network that had views that were different than our views, we would be out of business,” NBC Entertainment Chair Bob Greenblatt said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif.
Sitting next to Greenblatt on stage, NBC’s president of alternative and late-night programming, Paul Teledgy, said the network’s original statement still holds true. “Both statements are true. That doesn’t prevent you from booking someone on an entertainment show or a news show. Does that answer the Donald Trump question?” Telegdy sternly said to the room of press. “Because it’s clear to us and it’s clear to the people producing those shows.”
Greenblatt further explained that when NBC cut ties with Trump, they didn’t expect his political success. Now that he’s a viable candidate, as an entertainment and news broadcaster, NBC has a responsibility to bring on newsworthy guests and presidential candidates — especially during the election season when all other networks are doing the same.
“We had a couple businesses that we were doing with him — ‘Apprentice’ and the pageants — we got out of both of those businesses,” he said. “That was June or July when most of us thought he would be sort of waltzing into the background of the political arena, and lo and behold, he’s the frontrunner and the poll numbers are sort of astounding and he’s everywhere… every news show, morning show, night show, cable show… I think that reconciles quite easily with we’re not in business with him, but love it or not, he’s one of the most important political figures of our time and he’s on our shows.”
Asked if he had any regrets about Trump hosting “SNL,” given the backlash, Greenblatt said, “He was on the show and the Earth didn’t fall on its axis. It was a highly rated show and that’s always a good thing. At the end of the day, he’s the frontrunner of the Republican nomination.” Telegdy chimed in: “And he’s good fodder for comedy, as well.”
Following the executive session, Telegdy spoke to a smaller group of reporters, including Variety, when he was asked if he understood the barrage of press questions during the heated conversation on stage. “I do, and I’m sorry if I appeared defensive,” Telegdy said.
“We severed our business ties with Donald Trump, which was that we had a joint venture with the Miss Universe Organization,” Telegdy said, noting that “it was done at a speed and an efficiency that is hard to do in the corporate world when you’ve been in business with someone for that long. As far as his hosting on ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ which made him an employee of this company… that relationship finished. Does that mean Donald Trump is banned from NBC Universal? No — not when he’s a public figure who is running for president and by polls that [show] he can be considered the presidential frontrunner. Do you suggest that a company that operates the largest news division of any of these companies turns a blind eye and ignores that?”
On a lighter note, regarding the question of Schwarzenegger’s catchphrase on “Celeb Apprentice,” Telegdy admits he has picked something out to follow up Trump’s “You’re fired!” However, NBC is staying mum on those words until the show premieres — which Greenblatt said could be as early as this fall.