When MSNBC talking head Lawrence O’Donnell isn’t busy blaming the government for people getting killed because of the size of weapon clips, or blaming more than half the country for voting Republican, he has to find something else to while away the hours. That’s why it’s good to know that he can still make time to blame his bosses at NBC for the recent political ascension of Donald Trump.
How does he arrive at this conclusion? As he succinctly points out, NBC has an entertainment division. But NBC also has a news division! Plus, Trump is a racist! And McCain went on Saturday Night Live. But Obama did Oprah Winfrey’s show. And… OK. I don’t know exactly what he’s raving about this time. Let’s give Politico’s Keach Hagey a shot at it.
Lawrence O’Donnell responded to the president’s revelation of his long-form birth certificate today by attacking his own bosses at NBC for perpetuating Donald Trump’s flirtation with the GOP presidential candidacy by not revealing what they know about the future of his reality shows.
He argued that Trump’s line during today’s news conference that he couldn’t announce his candidacy until after the season finale of his television show was an incorrect reading of equal-time laws, since these laws don’t apply to entertainment programs. He also argued that NBC executives likely knew well whether Trump has re-upped for next season, since many of NBC’s other shows have already been announced for that year.
“NBC can no longer avoid conflict with Mr. Trump,” O’Donnell said. “NBC has a conflict with Mr. Trump. NBC has created a monster who is using his NBC fame to spew hatred, reeking with racist overtones and undertones about the president of the United States. NBC can no longer stand idly by, not for one more day. The NBC entertainment division could not possibly have created a worse conflict with the NBC News division. The NBC entertainment division is now in possession of news that the NBC News division would [like to have]. An NBC paid performer, the most deranged egomaniac in the history of NBC entertainment division has spewed lies to the point where he provoked this.”
At the heart of the matter is whether or not The Donald’s show would put him in violation of the network’s equal time rules were he to announce his candidacy now. As usual, those rules are a bit fuzzy, but Politico did some digging and they seem to feel that entertainment shows are fair game for the equal time clause, which would argue in favor of Trump’s position. But O’Donnell argues that if the entertainment branch has solid information about whether or not Trump has committed to another season of The Apprentice, then that is news, darn it, and they should be sharing that with the news division.
But as the author points out, these rules seem to be casually enforced at best and have built-in escape clauses. “News interviews” don’t invoke the clause, so even though Oprah Winfrey’s show is considered entertainment, her spot with President Obama was an “interview” so that was allowed. However, NBC canceled an appearance on Saturday Night Live by Al Sharpton in 2003 when he was running, but then didn’t utter a peep when John McCain did the same show in 2008.
There’s no way that Trump’s own reality show could be considered a “news interview” but the other exceptions which have been made certainly put this into a gray area. The bottom line is that if the NBC news division knows that the Donald is already committed to another season, that would certainly qualify as news right now. But are they obligated to share that with O’Donnell and the rest of the parent company’s news division? It’s a question for the ages. At least until next week.