Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he leads the news media at the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, March 21, 2016.
Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

Team Trump defends his ongoing reality-show work

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/8/16, 9:16 PM ET

Trump not troubled by his conflicts of interest, nor is his base

Jo Becker, investigative reporter for The New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the mistake impression by the media and Americans generally that Donald Trump will somehow separate from his business for the sake of the presidency.
Before entering politics, Donald Trump was known for several things: his work in real estate, his role in pushing a racist conspiracy theory, his work in professional wrestling, his ghostwritten best-sellers, and of course, his NBC reality show in which Trump appeared once a week to fire people.

As Rachel noted last night, on that last part of Trump’s background, it appears the president-elect isn’t ready to let go just yet. NBC News reported:
President-elect Donald Trump will remain an executive producer on the reality television show “The Apprentice” even after takes office next month, and could continue earning a profit from the show, it was revealed on Thursday.

His involvement was confirmed by a representative for MGM, the company that owns the show – which is broadcast on NBC – and Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an email that “Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett.”
Trump apparently won’t be in front of the camera, but Variety reports the president-elect will likely receive a “per-episode fee,” valued in “the low five-figures, at a minimum.”

It’s unclear if Trump intends to give that money to charity, though it’s worth noting for context that in recent years, Trump’s “Apprentice”-related charitable claims proved to be untrue.

By way of a defense, I expected the president-elect’s team to say that Trump’s role as an executive producer would largely be a formality: his name would appear in the credits, and he might get a check, but Americans shouldn’t expect Trump to do any real work associated with the reality show.

Except, that’s not what Team Trump is saying.

On the contrary, Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN this morning and effectively argued that if President Obama can go golfing, then Donald Trump can be the executive producer of a television program. TPM reported:
Co-host Alisyn Camerota noted to Conway that any time Trump spends working for “The Apprentice” is time away from his presidential duties.

“Well, okay, but were we so concerned about the hours and hours and hours spent on the golf course of the current president?” Conway asked in response. “I mean, the presidents have a right to do things in their spare time or their leisure time. Nobody objects to that.”
So, Donald Trump will be the executive producer of a reality show as … a hobby?

The right’s fascination with Obama’s golf game has always been inexplicable to me – plenty of his presidential predecessors golfed, and it was never the subject of quite this much interest – but the fact remains that it’s a pretty common leisure activity, for which Obama was never paid. By all appearances, the president simply golfed to unwind.

But to hear Conway tell it, Trump’s television work – in addition to the time he takes to golf – will be what he does in his “spare time.”

It’s a shame Inauguration Day is still six weeks away; I’ve already run out of adjectives to describe stuff like this.

Donald Trump and Pop Culture

Team Trump defends his ongoing reality-show work