NBC Universal finally said to Donald Trump, “ you are fired”. The action came as pressure was mounting on the network to sever all ties with the businessman/reality television star/Republican presidential candidate after he called for a great wall to be built in order to stop illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States. In his statement, Trump said, “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump’s remarks led Univision which broadcasts his ‘Miss USA’ pageant to announce that it would no longer broadcast the pageant. The co-hosts of the Miss USA Spanish-language simulcast—Devious Maids actress Roselyn Sanchez and actor Cristian De La Fuente announced that they also would no longer participate in that pageant.
Trump as is his style, hyped the controversy for all that he could. He announced that he would be suing Univision and banned reporters from the network from his campaign events. He further tried to make the media firestorm out to be a fabricated event with the media going after him because he was the strongest potential Republican candidate in 2016. Of course, Trump said his remarks were never meant to disparage Mexicans.
From a communications standpoint, the controversy was a godsend for the master showman. It continued to allow him to dominate the airwaves with coverage of his remarks and the reactions they were generating overshadowing the presidential launch of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the activities of other current candidates such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senators Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. Finally, it allowed his campaign to keep its momentum going. His remarks intentional or not, hit a chord with much of the Republican base that favors strong anti-immigration laws, propelling him in some polls to second place in key primary states just behind Jeb Bush. For Trump, any publicity even negative publicity has always been a win.
Strangely silent as the crisis unfolded over the past week was NBC Universal, the network that airs Trump’s beauty pageants, Miss USA and Miss Universe, and his reality television show, Celebrity Apprentice. Even when called upon to make a statement regarding Trump’s remarks, the network released a tepid condemnation of his statement but would take no further action despite being urged to do so by many leading Mexican-American personalities. Many pointed out the sharp contrast of NBC Universal to the Food Network’s handling of Paula Deen several years ago when it was revealed that the celebrity chef had used the ‘N’ word. As the controversy continued into another week with Trump revealing in the attention, NBC Universal was finally forced to move and sever ties with him. Too many, the network did so reluctantly and did not seem to fully condemn Trump’s words for fear of losing one of its ratings champions.
The Donald Trump/NBC Universal saga could have been a non-story had NBC Universal acted more swiftly. In a crisis like this when racial words are at the forefront, the only way for an organization to act is swiftly in getting ahead of the story. NBC Universal dawdled, hoping they would not lose their ratings winner. As a result, there actions when taken looked forced earning them no praise from those offended by Trump’s remarks and earning Trump’s disdain as well. Crisis specialists should remember delay in handling a crisis makes the crisis worse and any action taken forced and not done willingly by the organization.