By TaRessa Stovall, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –
His headline-making announcement that he’d seek the GOP nomination for the 2012 presidential race, distinguished by an obsessive insistence on seeing President Barack Obama’s original birth certificate to establish American citizenship increased the ratings for his NBC reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and provided rich fodder for pundits and comics alike.
His popularity has seesawed in recent weeks. Talking Points Memo, stated that Trump’s 15 seconds as “frontrunner in the Republican primary is over, according to a [Public Policy Polling] PPP poll released on Tuesday. One month ago, a handful of surveys showed Trump trouncing the GOP field, leading all comers by as much as a nine-point margin. But now, after a month of bruising press coverage, the latest PPP poll shows that Trump’s support has quickly dried up, as he’s dropped back to a tie for fifth place,” or eight percent, after Mike Huckabee (19 percent), Mitt Romney (18 percent), Newt Gingrich (13 percent), and Sarah Palin (12 percent), and tied with Ron Paul (eight percent). PPP polls Republican registered voters nationwide.
“That’s a stunning turnaround from one month ago, when Trump led PPP’s national survey with 26 percent to Huckabee’s 17 percent,” Talking Points Memo reports, adding that Trump’s “sudden downfall” might be due in part to “the fact that the birther population, a group Trump heavily courted by insisting that Obama release his long-form birth certificate, was cut in half” when the document was revealed.
Tom Jensen of PPP wrote on the company blog that, “As Trump got more and more exposure over the last month Republicans didn’t just decide they weren’t interested in having him as their nominee —they also decided they flat don’t like him.”
Meanwhile, for Black people, Trump had other proclivities to consider.
After branding himself as vehemently anti-Obama and taunting the public with promises of a 2012 presidential run, Trump famously trumpeted his “great relationship with the Blacks,’ on a Talk 1300 AM radio show in Albany N.Y. on April 14.
Trump’s “great relationship” claim was in response to radio host Fred Dicker’s reference to a Quinnipiac Poll showing strong support for Obama from 95 percent of Blacks in New York State.” Trump deemed that statistic “frightening,” according to USA Today, which stated that “Trump has said he will decide by June whether to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.”
What could drive The Donald to leave the business world? “Trump is discouraged with the way the US is being run right now, and feels that we are no longer respected the way we used to be respected, and if we keep going like this, within 10 years China is going to overtake us easily,” Bloomberg News Service reported on May 2. “In my mind, I have already decided,” Trump, 64, said in an interview. “I am going to announce. But I can’t do anything until the [Celebrity Apprentice] show ends.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s birther grandstanding was interpreted by some as thinly-disguised racism. Past actions reveal him to be, if not overtly racist, then seemingly two-faced when it comes to African Americans.
On the one hand, Trump described his dream of an America free of “racism, discrimination against women, or discrimination against people based on sexual orientation,” in his 2000 book/political manifesto, The America That We Deserve. According to The Huffington Post, “he once donated office space to [Jesse} Jackson’s civil rights group, The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, he likes to pal around with African-American celebrities such as P. Diddy and Lenny Kravitz and he once hosted an NAACP convention party.”
On the other hand, as The Huffington Post points out, “Trump has been called out several times for racial insensitivity by former co-workers and civil rights activists. In 1991, Trump was accused of making racial slurs against black people in a book written by John R. O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, called Trumped! O’Donnell wrote that Trump once said, in reference to a black accountant at Trump Plaza, ‘laziness is a trait in blacks.’ He also told O’Donnell: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it!’”
After the 1989 rape of a White female jogger in Central Park, Trump took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the African-American teen suspects (all of whom were exonerated) to be given the death penalty.
Back in 1973, Trump Management Corporation was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for racial discrimination because he allegedly refused to rent to African Americans, giving them false information about prices, conditions, and availability of rental units in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. After holding a news conference to claim that the charges were “absolutely ridiculous,” and telling The New York Times, “We never have discriminated and we never would. He then counter-sued the DOJ for $100 million in defamation damages, then settled the case, but apparently failed to change his ways, since three years later the DOJ again charged Trump Management with discriminating against Blacks to the point where the NYC human rights commission was called in to investigate.
According to VLAD TV, Trump “also talked of running for office in 1988 and 2000, but backed out because of his speculated fear of losing or being humiliated.”
In response to Trump’s birther tirade, Change.org launched an online petition to let the advertisers on Trump’s hit reality show, The Celebrity Apprentice, [who] “are directly supporting the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump and contributing toward the negative and hostile political climate in this country … know that viewing public will not buy or support companies who are actively supporting the Donald Trump’s ‘birther rhetoric’ and “politics of fear” in this country . The corporate sponsors of “Celebrity Apprentice” are Enterprise Rental Car Company, Clorox Bleach Company, Sprint-Nextel Cellphones, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and The Walt Disney Company, and Groupon. That petition had more than 3,000 signatures at press time. And it seems to be working: Groupon stopped advertising on the show website so as not to intentionally upset part of their customer base.
Karen Hunter, a publisher and contributor to MSNBC, has called for African Americans to boycott Celebrity Apprentice in response to Trump’s trash-talking about President Obama. “Hunter recently called in to the popular Tom Joyner Morning Show to spread the word about the boycott,” reports Atlanta Professional Magazine. “The reactions were mixed. Some listeners agreed to boycott the television show, but others refused. Tom Joyner Morning Show co-host, comedian J. Anthony Brown, in particular opted out of the boycott because he did not want to miss the show down between feuding Celebrity Apprentice contestants NeNe Leakes and Star Jones.”
The New York Times noted in early April that “Something predictable happens to the ratings of Donald J. Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice on NBC when he hints at running for president: They rise. And when he talks about President Obama’s birth certificate, they really rise … Mr. Trump has a history of simultaneously talking up his presidential ambitions while promoting various Trump-branded goods.”
The general consensus in the social media and blogosphere is that Trump’s promised presidential bid is a publicity stunt to boost ratings for Celebrity Apprentice. “But while Trump has gotten plenty of airtime by suggesting, wrongly, that the president was not born in the United States, Nielsen ratings for Celebrity Apprentice are lower than they were a year ago—and dropping fast,” according to The Atlantic. “One reason Trump’s audience is abandoning him may be that, according to demographic research of primetime television viewers provided exclusively to The Atlantic by National Media Inc., a firm that places political ads on television, the audience for “Celebrity Apprentice” is among the most liberal in primetime television (see graphic).
“Rather than add viewers, Trump foolishly appears to be driving them away,” states The Atlantic.
On the other side of the TV ratings coin, MSNBC, though obviously not objective, reported that on May 2, “a night dominated by President Barack Obama’s speech announcing Osama bin Laden’s death, Donald Trump eked out a minor victory as “Celebrity Apprentice” won Sunday’s top ratings slot, according to preliminary numbers.”
Popularity polls and TV ratings aside, Trump’s real capital is his brand, combined with his brash persona, and ability to have everyone pay attention to what he says and does, whether or not they respect or take him seriously. He is a power player, able to toy with the media—they do his bidding when they broadcast his antics—and whether he runs for president is less important than who he throws his weight and support behind.
When it comes to Black people, are Trump’s comments and actions merely clever branding strategies for his various projects and ambitions? Is he simply playing to ratings and polls; or is he cashing in on the incalculable value of controversy, especially in the Information Age. In any case, it’s important to remember that Donald Trump, the man, the mogul, the brand, the icon, and the franchise represents a very real and increasingly organized segment of America who seem to want anyone except President Obama in the White House.
Or, as rapper Snoop Dogg opined at the Trump Comedy Central roast last month about Trump’s quest to take over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, “Why not? It wouldn’t be the first time he pushed a Black family out of their home.”
TaRessa Stovall is Managing Editor of The Defenders Online.