Veteran reality-TV star Donald Trump is working like a beaver to bring back to its former ratings glory his latest starring vehicle, The GOP Debates. Preaching to his choir in Georgia, Trump again last night pulled out of his bag o’ tricks a threat to charge CNN $5 million to headline its telecast of the next Republican presidential debate on December 15.
Many political navel lint gazers credit the novelty of reality star Trump on the debate stage with early GOP debates’ historic ratings numbers. That started in August when the first one brought Fox News Channel a basic-cable non-sports record of 24 million viewers. It was followed closely the next month by the 23M CNN clocked with its GOP debate. But, more recently, GOP debate viewership has plunged by about 10 million viewers, as the slugfest migrated to lesser known networks like CNBC and Fox Business Network, though the debates still scored record ratings for those nets too. Last month, the most recent Republican debate logged 13.5M viewers, which was a record for debate-hosting FBN, rivaling the 14M who’d watched October’s GOP debate on CNBC.
Trump’s rates also have come down. When last he threatened to be a no-show, ahead of CNN’s September GOP debate, the Republican front-runner floated the idea of charging that network $10M, which he said would be distributed among various charities. Loads of Donald Trump headlines later, that debate clocked CNN’s biggest crowd ever, as Trump noted last night to hisof about 5,500 – and tens of thousands more via the TV news cameras that follow his every eye roll and hair toss.
At Monday’s rally, Trump did not explain his price cut to followers who either didn’t notice or did not care, cheering loudly at the idea – though not as loudly, reported a Washington Post reporter who was in attendance – as they’d roared when Trump referenced “dumbass politicians” who spend all their time trying to get re-elected.
This time, Trump said, he’s threatening a boycott because he did not like CNN’s coverage of his meeting hours earlier with black religious leaders. In fairness, Trump did commend CNN for switching to a more flattering photo of him in its coverage.
“How about I tell CNN, who doesn’t treat me properly, I’m not gonna do the next debate, OK?” Trump put to vote at last night’s rally. “How about we do this for CNN: I won’t do the debate unless they pay me $5M, all of which money goes to Wounded Warriors or goes to vets?…I would love to do that.”
Switching roles – Trump is very versatile – he performed CNN’s response:
“So, with CNN, here’s what they’ll say: ‘Trump’s chicken. He’s afraid to debate. He’s afraid to debate,’” Trump said. “Now: If you’re not leading and you’re going nowhere, you have nothing to lose. But wouldn’t it be bad: I’m leading the polls. I don’t do it, I play cute – because you’re playing cute, right? – It gets out I’m chicken, which I’m not. One thing I’m not is chicken.”
“Should I do it or not? I don’t know if I want to take the chance. I don’t know,” Trump ruminated for a moment, before launching into his favorite story: how he negotiated his “tremendous salary” on NBC’s reality series The Apprentice, which he’s put at $213M.
CNN has declined to comment.