As the impeachment inquiry continues, Donald Trump is reportedly already considering a post-presidency return to reality television. Mark Burnett, Trump’s television buddy who created The Apprentice and who worked behind-the-scenes on the 2017 inauguration, has reportedly been discussing future reality show options for Trump after he leaves the White House. The Daily Beast has the scoop:
According to three people with knowledge of the situation and another source close to Trump, Apprentice creator Mark Burnett and the president have sporadically kept in touch, mostly over the phone, since Trump won the election. … and have discussed reviving their creative partnership, pitching each other details on potential TV projects to be filmed after the Trump presidency.
One of the ideas kicked around by Burnett and the president was shooting a new version of the Trump-branded Apprentice, tentatively titled The Apprentice: White House, and to produce it shortly after the president leaves office. This time, however, the TV program would be explicitly politics-themed and take full advantage of Trump’s status as a former president of the United States and a newfound Republican kingmaker.
On one hand, the very idea that they would turn our electoral process into even more of a circus makes me sick. The Republican Party needs to put a mile between itself and Donald Trump after he leaves office, not let him use a reality shitshow to influence the selection of the next nominee. On the other hand, I want this show to launch in February 2021 because that means Donald Trump is finally out of the White House.
Funny enough—and I mean “funny” in a pulling your hair out and screaming kind of way—Trump has, over the last year, repeatedly insisted that former President Barack Obama's book deal and Netflix deal should be investigated. Over and over again he’s insinuated there was something fishy with both Barack and Michelle Obama’s book deals—both of which were announced in March 2017, after Trump replaced them in the White House. Yet, here he is, already reportedly discussing ways to cash in on his presidency and get back into the reality show game.
Mark Burnett is a true television mogul and while he may stay away from Trump in public, it seems that privately, he’s still friends with him. The creator of Survivor and The Apprentice has generated a personal fortune from two decades of mega-hits, and is estimated to be worth around $450 million. His game-changing success propelled him to the top of MGM Worldwide Television Group in December 2015, just as Donald Trump was launching his bid for the Oval Office.
The timing of Burnett’s ascent to the top of MGM couldn’t have worked out better for Trump. After the Access Hollywood video went viral just before the 2016 election—the one where Trump is heard telling host Billy Bush he grabs women “by the pussy,” among other piggish remarks, former Apprentice staffers said that was the tip of the iceberg. Former Apprentice crew members and contestants claim that Trump used racist, sexist, and otherwise cruel language to contestants on the show and his own adult children—all while on a “hot mic” (microphone that continue recording in between takes). Further, comedian Tom Arnold claims to have seen these tapes, which may include Trump calling his son Eric a particularly disparaging word in front of the crew.
This content obviously never aired, and is allegedly locked away somewhere in the MGM vaults, despite pressure for Burnett to release additional audio, which also allegedly includes Trump using the “n-word.” Burnett declined, claiming that his production company could not release the tapes because they were owned by MGM.
In turn, the chairman of MGM—who also happens to be Mark Burnett—refused to release the tapes. A source tells Daily Kos that they are stored in an underground vault with security at a facility far, far from Hollywood or New York City.
One can only imagine what kind of a backlash Burnett might face after protecting an American president who freely spews racist, sexist, toxic commentary. Burnett, a devout Christian who produces a steady stream of religious media content, might have a hard time explaining why he kept Donald Trump in a position to abuse staff and contestants for so long. Thus, Burnett has a clear interest in making sure these tapes never see the light of day because he would have to publicly account for the fact he employed an misogynistic, abusive racist for more than a decade.
It also means Burnett might have sway over the president if he ever needed anything, a particularly precarious position to be in for the president of the United States. The Russians call it kompromat, don’t they?
In light of the heavy criticism NBC is currently facing—including from employees like Rachel Maddow—in light of sexual harassment and rape allegations against on-air personalities, it seems extremely unlikely that the network would embrace a return of Donald Trump to the primetime schedule. Perhaps that’s why Burnett and Trump might go even bigger, and create their own network.
In 2016, Vanity Fair reporter Sarah Ellison said Trump was making plans to create his own “mini-media conglomerate.”
Trump’s rationale, according to this person, is that, “win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.”
At the end of the day, it’s still nice to envision a future without Donald Trump in the White House. Surely it’s a good thing that he’s already thinking about that day too. Let’s hope it comes sooner than later.