NBC has taken the high road, extending an open invitation to Trump in case he changes his mind, a network source tells Deadline.
It’s unclear why Trump has turned down the invitation for what has become a pre-Big Game tradition. Obama did the interview every year of his presidency. It might be that he doesn’t want a repeat of last year’s interview – the first of Trump’s administration, in which he was interviewed on Fox by his friend and Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly; that chat clocked 12.2 million viewers, significantly fewer than Obama’s interviews.
Obama’s first pre-Super Bowl interview, on NBC, had logged an average of 21.9 million viewers when the dust settled. His final one, on CBS in 2016, drew 18 million. Obama’s pre-game interview with O’Reilly on Fox, in 2011, averaged 17.3 million viewers.
Or, perhaps Trump does not want to take any uncomfortable questions about his relationship with Stormy Daniels, DACA, reported description of Haiti and countries in Africa as “sh*tholes,” etc.
And, of course, Trump is the leader of the anti-NFL movement, having launched an attack in September against players who kneeled in protest during the national anthem. At a rally, Trump once asked his base, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
At the recently wrapped TCA, NBC walked reporters through its Super Bowl plans, making no mention of a POTUS interview, though the network did tout Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, the This Is Us broadcast that got the plum post-game timeslot, and the special game-night edition of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
NBC execs at TCA did, however take a Trump-related question when a reporter asked how the network would handle any knee-taking by NFL players during the Super Bowl performance of the national anthem.
Fred Gaudelli, NBC’s Sunday Night Football EP, assured reporters if players kneel “they will be shown live,” adding, “we’d identify the person. We would probably try to, in a very concise manner, mention why it is this person is kneeling or why they’re kneeling and then get on with the game.”
That said, Gaudelli insisted, “maybe since Thanksgiving, a lot of that has kind of dissipated and died down.”
But, of course, Trump could change that.
Variety first reported today that the interview was in peril.