CNN’s Trump Problem

Published at HuffPost.

Donald Trump’s improbable political rise has been fueled by the unprecedented free media he’s received, particularly from the cable news networks. “When you look at cable television, a lot of the programs are 100 percent Trump,” explained Trump.

Among cable networks, CNN has led the way. “Honestly, I think I get better press from CNN than I do Fox,” Trump told Fox. “I don’t know why.”

It doesn’t hurt that Trump and CNN president Jeff Zucker have been close, personallyand professionally, for more than a decade.

“I understood who and what Donald Trump was, because I was from New York, and I understood that he was just a one-man wrecking publicity machine.”

That was Zucker’s explanation for featuring Trump so prominently, not on CNN, but in his previous position as president of NBC Entertainment. Back in 2004, it was Zucker who put Trump in American homes with The Apprentice.

The show provided a ratings boost for a struggling NBC; just as Trump’s presidential run would later pump life into Zucker’s moribund CNN.

The Apprentice

“Why is Trump still number one”? Rick Perlstein asked in a November story for The Washington Spectator. After spending two weeks reviewing episodes of The Apprentice, Perlstein concluded one reason was “hiding in plain sight.” In The Apprentice,

“the most sophisticated techniques of Hollywood art were applied to imprinting an image on the minds of millions more citizens than ever paid attention to any politician, with the possible exception of the president.”

(For insight into Trump’s rise, watch the first two minutes of The Apprentice‘s intro.)

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