In Trump we profit
Les Moonves, the CBS chief toppled by a sexual harassment scandal, will probably be best remembered for what he said in 2016 about Donald Trump’s candidacy: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Moonves might have added, “And for everyone else in media as well.”
For Rachel Maddow, who specializes in professorial-style takedowns of Trump and his cohorts, the week of Sept. 10 was the best, ratings-wise, in her 10-year run on MSNBC. At the same time, Trump’s most ardent media apologist, Sean Hannity, had roughly the same number of viewers on Fox News Channel.
Hannity’s total viewership trailed Maddow’s slightly for the week, but he still leads overall in TV’s third quarter results.
Meanwhile, Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in The White House,” sold more than 1.1 million copies in its first full week on sale, a remarkable achievement for any hardcover title. At the other end of the literary spectrum is the upcoming tell-all by Stormy Daniels, due out Oct. 2.
In “Full Disclosure,” the porn performer, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, recounts her sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 and his subsequent attempts to keep her from speaking about it. A slew of other Trump books is on the way.
It began with a somewhat shabby effort by a writer with less than stellar credentials - Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” - that managed to sell over 3 million copies. Since then, everyone’s a best-selling author - from Omarosa Manigault Newman of “Apprentice” and West Wing fame, to James Comey, the former FBI director.
CBS is reportedly making a miniseries based on Comey’s book.
Just about every form of media has benefited from the news typhoon about the White House buffoon. I’ve tried to cut back on my own rants about Trump, yet here I go again: getting media mileage simply by tabulating Trump’s enormous impact on media mileage.
The amazing thing about this process is that the more Trump attacks writers and reporters, the more their audience grows and the more handsomely they profit.
Most nights, unless there’s a hurricane, CNN’s prime-time hosts, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon, abandon most other news in favor of dissecting the latest Trump outrages. It’s not surprising that White House spokespeople, led by Kellyanne Conway, complain that news media, particularly cable-TV, don’t seem to have much time for other stories.
Of course Conway’s plea is for coverage of Trump’s “achievements,” such as they might be, but the real oversights on cable relate more to the basics: covering the environment, the plight of those skipped over in the recent economic uptick, the crumbling infrastructure that Trump promised to fix, and so much more.
Watching a Trump rally — which cable channels still cover for as much as an uninterrupted hour at a time — is like viewing any other showbiz daredevil act. Many in the TV audience are drawn by the possibility that he will fall off the high wire, careen off the road, or utter something that will finally run him out of town.
We in media should concede that Les Moonves was right: Trump’s presidency has boosted audiences and profits. The man who calls news media an “enemy of the American people” and “dangerous and sick” is also their sugar daddy.
Connect these dots: The Emmy telecast Monday night, hosted by performers from “Saturday Night Live” who specialize in lampooning Trump, managed to virtually ignore him for three hours. Trump’s name was never mentioned.
It was the lowest-rated show in the Emmy’s history.