Donald Trump, Mark Burnett, and The Apprentice

If you’re a fan of both television and politics as I am, there’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this piece, particularly about Mark Burnett’s origin story and rise to become a highly successful reality television producer. I also have a lot of things to say about The Apprentice (a show I covered during my TV writing days), but I’ll save that for another time as I found the following bit so intriguing.

When Burnett first met Donald Trump, he told the future reality TV star and U.S. president that someone had handed him a copy of The Art of the Deal when he was a young man, selling t-shirts in Venice Beach, California, and it changed his life. Not surprisingly, Trump was flattered and a partnership was then forged. Kym Gold, Burnett’s first wife, doubts that this — the book exchange — actually happened, nor that Burnett had read Trump’s book. I mention all of this because I find it plausible that:

  • 1) Indeed, this never happened
  • 2) Trump understood that he was being lied to but decided to be flattered anyway

So in essence, a lie coupled with Trump’s monstrous ego helped to form a bond that lead first to a successful reality television show, and then to an enormously consequential (and precarious) period in American history. If nothing else, that’s pretty interesting to consider.

Pull quotes:

  • Trump, in 2004, pre-Apprentice: I don’t want to have cameras all over my office, dealing with contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business. You know, mobsters don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room.
  • Did Burnett believe what he was selling? Or was Trump another two-dollar T-shirt that he pawned off for eighteen?  It’s difficult to say.

This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

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