You’re Hired! How NBC Spent 11 Years Making Trump a Household Name, Building Foundation for His Campaign

Network Gave Billionaire Businessman 21 Times More Positive Coverage When They Were Partners


Journalists blamed broadcast and cable media for overcovering Donald Trump in the current election cycle. But only NBC spent more than a decade building his brand as a larger-than-life businessman.

A New York Times analysis published on March 16, 2016, revealed that broadcast media gave Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump nearly $2 billlion in free air time. While broadcast media certainly gave disproportionate airtime to Trump during the current election cycle, NBC inflated Trump’s public image long before he announced his candidacy.

NBC news made Donald Trump into “the ultimate businessman.” From 2004-2015, the network dubbed Trump “King of the Universe,” touted his “divine” nature in a Miss USA scandal, promoted his business during the Today show and even urged a voter to write him in on a presidential election ballot. During that time, NBC barely covered his flops as a businessman and failed to disclose its partnerships with him in critical stories.

NBC lionized Trump with 21 times more positive than negative stories. The network also severely underreported his failures as a businessman, which included Trump Network, Trump Mortgage, Trump Magazine, and many others. From 2004 through the beginning of 2015, NBC promoted Trump’s business and his success with 320 stories, but only covered his failures 15 times. In 13 of the 15 stories on Trump’s flops, the network failed to disclose its business partnerships with him.

When Trump first declared his candidacy in June 2015, NBC greeted him with substantially more coverage than the other broadcast networks. During the first several weeks of his campaign (June 16 through July 31), the NBC Nightly News devoted just less than 62 minutes to Trump's fledgling candidacy, more than ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News combined (53 minutes, 14 seconds).

It was the culmination of the network’s Trump support. More than a decade before Trump announced, NBC personality and Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush described Trump as “The next President of the United States,” and told a man to write Trump in on his ballot.

In that Nov. 3, 2004, segment on Today, a man asked Trump, “Why don’t you run, man?” Bush responded by urging the man to, “Write him in.” Bush also asked a poll worker how many people were writing Trump in on their ballots. The poll worker said she didn’t know, but that she would be the first one to do so. Bush even told a man that while his vote was just “one vote,” Trump’s was a “giant vote.”