As the president of CNN, Jeff Zucker has been one of the media executives blamed for giving Donald Trump millions of dollars worth of free, unfiltered airtime that contributed to his legitimacy as a presidential candidate (and later, the election). But Zucker actually gave the man who would defy the odds to become president a major career boost years ago — he was the head of NBC Entertainment during when The Apprentice rose to popularity. And according to a new New York Times profile of Zucker, part of his job entailed, evidently, fluffing his reality star's ego.
According to the Times, "Having Trump as 'talent' came with certain obligations." For example, Zucker had to listen to Trump prattle on about The Apprentice's huge ratings during their weekly phone calls. But more strange is the fact that he let Trump actually pitch a scripted TV show to the network. The show would be called The Tower. The title is reminiscent of Trump's weird, sexist novel Trump Tower, about the intrigue of the building's residents. The plot of The Tower sounds similar too. The Times describes the proposed series as "like Dynasty, only about a group of models who live in a Manhattan skyscraper." Trump's single, very Trumpian stipulation: the stars had to be real models, not actresses playing models.
Zucker went so far as to greenlight Trump's idea, purchasing the pitch and hiring a screenwriter. The only thing is, he had no plans of actually following through on bringing the show to TV. Apparently, he just wanted to keep the real estate mogul content. (Trump also had another reality show hopeful called Trump Town Girls which would feature Miss USA contestants competing for jobs at his company — that too never saw the light of day.)
And now, Zucker's programming decisions as the head of a mainstream news network have been criticized for helping to put Trump in the White House. At the same time, Trump's antics have led to ratings boosts for Zucker's network. Things have come full circle in the most bizarre way.