Donald Trump, the “ratings machine”
by Glenn Ong
EVER since winning the US presidential elections on Nov 8 last year, Donald Trump just hasn’t been able to catch a break – and not always for the right reasons.
His electoral college victory – confirmed on Dec 19 – will see him inaugurated on Jan 20 as the 45th President of the United States. However, this hasn’t been sitting well with many of his detractors, and Trump continues to be the subject of jokes, parodies, and yes – insults.
Trump, however, is not one to take things lying down. The celebrity businessman-turned-President seems intent on sharing – or hogging – the spotlight. In a country where it is common for celebrities and politicians to become the butt of jokes, Trump’s frequent expressions of indignation have been described as impetuous and thin-skinned.
Here are some of the people he’s clashed with so far:
1. Meryl Streep
The most recent celebrity to be embroiled in a conflict with Donald Trump is Hollywood actress and 19-time Academy Award nominee Meryl Streep.
In her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, she called Trump out for ridiculing a disabled New York Times reporter, and for inciting a culture of hate and intolerance, though she stopped short of naming him:
In her six-minute speech for the lifetime achievement award, Streep addressed the circumstances surrounding Trump’s rise to office, saying:
Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
The President-elect did not take kindly to Streep’s speech, retaliating in a series of tweets calling her “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood”:
Trump’s labelling of Streep as “over-rated” is a reversal of his previous opinion of the actress. When asked to name his favourite actresses in 2015, Trump said, “Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too.”
In her speech, Streep – who has won at least 157 awards in her career – also called for greater press freedom and more support for the non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). As of yesterday (Jan 9), just a day after her speech, the CPJ reported a spike in donations totalling US$80,000 (S$114,900).
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2. Alec Baldwin
Image Alec Baldwin 2008 PETA New York City by David Shankbone by Flickr user David Shankbone. (CC BY 2.0)
Alec Baldwin’s unflattering impersonation of Donald Trump on American variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL) has earned him much praise from SNL’s viewers, but also plenty of scorn from Trump and his supporters.
In another tweet, Trump called SNL a “totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all”. Yet, SNL’s parodies of Trump remain popular. While many SNL videos cannot be viewed in Singapore, one of its sketches – of the town hall debate – garnered more than 20 million views and over 135,000 ‘likes’ on YouTube.
Below is a full video of SNL’s town hall debate parody, uploaded by another user:
The President-elect, who had difficulties getting celebrities to agree to perform at his inauguration, even received a sarcastic offer by Baldwin to show up – provided Trump allowed him to perform the song “Highway to Hell” by rock band AC/DC.
However, not all of Baldwin’s retorts have been caustic.
In a series of tweets, Baldwin told Trump what he would do if he were President: “I’d be focused on how to improve the lives of AS MANY AMERICANS AS POSSIBLE… I’d be focused on improving our reputation abroad, including actually fighting for freedom and not just oil.”
“I would make appointments that encouraged people, not generate fear and doubt,” he added. He concluded with, “I could go on. You want more advice, call me. I’ll be at SNL.”
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Trump allegedly picked a fight with former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger over the ratings of the reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice”, which Schwarzenegger now hosts. In a tweet last Friday (Jan 6), The Donald ridiculed Schwarzenegger for failing to match the ratings of Trump’s previous hit series, “The Apprentice”.
“The Celebrity Apprentice”, which premiered last Monday (Jan 2) with 4.9 million viewers, is a new iteration of Trump’s iconic reality show, which garnered 18.5 million viewers when it premiered in 2004. Calling himself the “ratings machine”, Trump said he “swamped (or destroyed)” Schwarzenegger.
Mr Schwarzenegger hit back at Trump, tweeting: “I wish you the best of luck and I hope you’ll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings.”
Calling Schwarzenegger out for the show’s poor ratings might have been an odd move, since Trump is himself the official executive producer of the show. However, Trump’s hostility towards Schwarzenegger is not surprising, since the latter stated last October that he would not vote for Trump.
4. Joe Biden
After the tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault was leaked last year, US Vice-President Joe Biden was among the many who publicly expressed outrage, saying on Oct 21 that he wished he could “take Trump behind the gym”, a euphemism for settling their differences with a fight.
Trump responded less than a week later (Oct 25), saying he’d be more than willing to take on the Vice-President’s challenge, whom he described as “creepy“.
While the two have yet to fight out their differences, the verbal squabble hasn’t ended.
Just last Friday (Jan 6), Mr Biden was asked by PBS NewsHour, an American news program, on what his thoughts were on Trump’s tweets, to which the Vice-President responded: “Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult.”
He added: “You’re president. You’ve got to do something. Show us what you have. You’re going to propose legislation. We’re going to get to debate it. Let the public decide. Let them vote in Congress. Let’s see what happens.”
5. Charlie Brotman
Not all of Donald Trump’s snubs are hostile and confrontational.
While he’s probably unknown to people outside America, 89-year-old Charlie Brotman has been the parade announcer for every presidential inauguration since Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President, was sworn in for his second term in 1957. Brotman also made a name as the stadium announcer for the Washington Senators baseball team.
On Sunday (Jan 8), however, the Trump campaign broke with tradition and announced that they would be dropping Brotman from the inauguration. Instead, the campaign has appointed Steve Ray, a 58-year-old freelance announcer.
Upon receiving the notice, Brotman said, “I looked at my email, then I got the shock of my life”, and that “I felt like Muhammad Ali had hit me in the stomach.”
The Trump transition team spokesman, Boris Epshteyn, said that in recognition of his services, Brotman would be honoured as “announcer chairman emeritus”. While Brotman isn’t sure why he was dropped, he said it is likely because Ray is being rewarded for expressing support for the Trump campaign.
While he is “heartbroken” and “destroyed”, Brotman wished his successor well, telling reporters, “I want [Ray] to do good“.
6. Mark Cuban
Perhaps one of the most well-known public feuds Donald Trump has is with billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban. A vocal critic of the President-elect, Cuban has been dubbed a “Trump troll” for his comical and sometimes absurd taunts. In 2012, Cuban offered Trump US$1 million (S$1.43 million) to a charity of his choice if he agreed to shave his head. Both continued to exchange blows online, with Trump tweeting:
However, they weren’t constant enemies. When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Cuban had said that he would consider being his running mate.
Cuban changed his position in the following months, launching scathing criticisms against Trump and publicly endorsing Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton. Defending his reversal, Cuban said in an interview, “I liked Trump’s honesty because it was different and had a chance to change the business of politics”. He added: “What I didn’t realize he was missing at the time was a complete and utter lack of preparation, knowledge, and common sense.”
Last September, when Trump suggested that Cuban wasn’t intelligent enough to understand his policies, the latter issued a dare, tweeting: “$10 [million] to the charity of YOUR choice if you let ME interview you for 4 hrs on YOUR policies and their substance.”
When Donald Trump’s victory was confirmed, however, Cuban took to Twitter to call for optimism:
Covering all bases
But just to make sure he didn’t miss out anyone, The Donald made sure to end last year right by sending out a greeting on New Year’s Eve to anyone who has ever crossed him:
Featured image by Sean Chong.
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