This week’s remarks about Mexican immigrants led Univision to cancel its plans to carry the Spanish-language telecast of next month’s Miss USA Pageant, a joint venture of Donald Trump and NBCUniversal. Trump’s remarks are more than offensive. Such comments are dangerous when espoused by prominent and powerful people. They reinforce prejudices in our culture that can lead to cruel discrimination and, as we saw in Charleston last week, worse — far worse. NBCU now needs to step up and sever all ties with Trump. It won’t be easy, but it will be the right thing to do.
Taking exception to Donald Trump’s assertion that Mexican immigrants are by and large the scum of the Earth, Univision said on Thursday that it no longer wanted to do business with the man. It said it would not air on the live July 12 Spanish-language simulcast of the Miss USA pageant, of which Trump is part owner.
NBC should follow Univision lead in cutting all ties with Trump, and I say that knowing that it will not be easy. You see, parent NBCUniversal is the other part owner of Miss USA. NBCU and Trump formed a joint venture years ago to produce it as well as Miss Universe.
Untangling its relationship with Trump could embroil NBCU in legal trouble and it could cost NBC a couple of pretty good live shows in which it has invested many millions. Last year, Miss USA on NBC delivered 5.5 million 18-49 viewers (1.4/4), up 8% from the year before. Miss Universe pulled 7.7 million 18-49 viewers (2.0/5) on Jan. 27.
Cutting ties would also mean Trump would never again star in Celebrity Apprentice, if there is to be another Celebrity Apprentice.
It all began last week when Trump kicked off his run for the Republican presidential nomination with a rambling speech.
“When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best,” Trump said when the speech turned to immigration reform. “They are sending people that have lots of problems and they are bringing those problem with us (sic). They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
I know all the top executives at Comcast and NBCU have been aware of what their business partner thinks about Mexicans since the day he said it. The above quote was the only one that NBC Nightly News lifted from the speech that day, and we know that all the top executives at Comcast and NBC never miss an airing of that newscast.
Trump’s remarks are more than offensive. Such comments are dangerous when espoused by prominent and powerful people. They reinforce prejudices in our culture that can lead to cruel discrimination and, as we saw in Charleston last week, worse, far worse.
Trump has now had more than a week and a half to apologize and retract or amend his statement. That apparently is not his style. When he says something vicious and stupid, he sticks with it.
In fact, rather than backtrack, Trump went into attack mode. He accused Univision of being in cahoots with the Mexican government, which is, in his mind, somehow involved in sending the horde of drug dealers and rapists north, and threatened to sue Univision.
NBCU’s effort to distance itself from the controversy on Thursday was lame. “Donald Trump’s opinions do not represent those of NBC, and we do not agree with his positions on a number of issues, including his recent comments on immigration,” a statement said.
Since NBCU was not specific, I will assume that it, like Trump, recognizes that at least some Mexican immigrants are OK.
I wonder what Lester Holt, on his first official week as anchor of the NBC Nightly News, was thinking was he read those lines Thursday. Probably something like, boy, this is lame.
Like I said, NBCU needs to break it off with Trump not only because of this episode, but because of the next. Lord knows what else he might say during the course of his campaign.The best way would be to buy Trump out of the joint venture. If Trump has a shred of decency, he will take the money and go quietly.
The immediate concern is Miss USA, which is set for July 12. If NBCU can negotiate Trump’s exit between now and then, it may be able to save the Spanish-language simulcast and it will be able air the English language version with a clear conscience.
The Spanish-language production is in deep trouble, by the way. Co-hosts Roselyn Sanchez and Cristian de la Fuente have quit the show in protest. I don’t know if it is being shopped to secondary Spanish-language networks. I can’t imagine any would touch it. Certainly not NBCU-owned Telemundo.
If NBCU can’t negotiate Trump away, it will have a tough call. Univision has put it on the spot. By ending its “business relationship” with Trump and opting not to air Miss USA, Univision was declaring that this is serious business, something that no associate of Trump’s can ignore. In other words, you can’t dismiss Trump and what he said by simply calling him a clown and go about business as usual. Univision’s move got me to revisit the situation. I had addressed it briefly here last week.
NBCU knows what it needs do, it just has to muster the guts to do it.
And if it turns out that NBC doesn’t have the guts, then it falls to the affiliates. What airs in two thirds of the country on the network is really not up to NBC. It’s up to the affiliates. By law and tradition, each one retains the right to preempt any network programs it feels does not fit with his or her conception of the public interest.
Affiliate preemption is rare, but not unusual. Just last November, many affiliates of all the Big Four preempted scheduled entertainment programming to air President Obama’s speech on immigration reform.
Following the shootings in Charleston, the nation is doing a lot of soul-searching about bigotry and racism and how they ruin lives in subtle ways and suddenly manifest themselves in terrible ways.
Writing in the New York Times today, columnist David Brooks said: “Every generation has the duty to root out the stubborn weed of prejudice from the culture. We do that, in part, through expressions of admiration and disdain.”
With the power that comes from their medium, that duty falls heavily on broadcasters.