Critic's Notebook: NBC and the "Peacucking" of Donald Trump

Donald Trump is threatening NBC's broadcast license — but why is the president so mad at his former television home?
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President Donald Trump

Peacucked: The impotent sensation that NBC and associated properties are out to get you.

Per conservative buzzwords and catchphrases, liberals are easily triggered snowflakes, but no bleeding heart pundit or ultra-sensitive post-millennial college student is currently as easily triggered as Donald Trump when it comes to NBC and NBC News.

Our president has been on a multi-day named and unnamed campaign when it comes to NBC News, with such excited utterances as "@NBCNews is so knowingly inaccurate with their reporting. The good news is that the PEOPLE get it, which is really all that matters! Not #1" and "Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a "tenfold" increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!"

Trump's pique peaked Wednesday with "With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"

As Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter at CNN — formerly Trump's TV Enemy No. 1, but now only No. 1a at best — explained in their story, the process of challenging broadcast licenses is vastly more complicated than Trump has any awareness of, and the president challenging the very existence of an adversarial media organization is chilling on free speech terms, but isn't really a practical call for action. Yet.

If one were to look at the evidence, President Trump has been pushing back against a variety of unrelated NBC News stories, but the tip of the proverbial spear relates to NBC News' report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to the commander-in-chief as a "f***ing moron" (we can write "fucking" here, but nobody has come out and said that this was, in fact, the f-word Tillerson used). So amid all the negative news that has been reported regarding the current administration and its internal tumult, our president has decided that this is the hill upon which he wants to throw periodic twitter hissy fits and issue strange challenges of IQ tests — the sort of low-brow social media kerfuffle our nation hasn't seen since President Warren Harding lashed out on telegraph at Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes for claiming he was unable to properly dance the Charleston, a charge that went unanswered due to Harding's tragic death in August of 1923.

Trump has been well and truly peacucked.

Would this hurt as much if NBC News weren't part of the NBC family that essentially birthed Trump as the figure he is today? [MSNBC has always been the black sheep, but the president hardly worries about them.] The Apprentice re-elevated Trump's profile from "Frequently bankrupted Home Alone 2 guest star and stuffed crust aficionado" to "Huge TV star and still-relevant titan of industry," and then NBC stood by Trump and kept giving him a platform even as he launched a hostile and speculative delegitimizing campaign against the first African-American president. Whatever dirtiness Trump was involved in, NBC kept bringing him to TCA press tours, sheltering him beneath their iconic peacock mascot, and The Apprentice kept washing him clean.

Perhaps NBC didn't birth Trump. It just dated him and married him and Trump probably felt they were going to be together until death do you part.

So maybe this peacucking is so satisfying to watch from the outside because so many people on the other side of the spectrum felt like NBC has been peacucking us for nearly two years.

NBC and Saturday Night Live gave Trump a normalizing hosting platform in the middle of a primary season, making light of his more controversial aspects. Now, regarding late-night comedy, Trump tweets stuff like, "More and more people are suggesting that Republicans (and me) should be given Equal Time on T.V. when you look at the one-sided coverage?" This is, again, a concept he doesn't fully understand, and that didn't seem to bother him so much when he was mid-campaign.

NBC and The Tonight Show were Trump's last significant pre-election late-night platform, and Jimmy Fallon is really, really, really regretting taking advantage of the opportunity to run his fingers through the real estate mogul's hair.

And probably Trump wasn't hating NBC News so much when they were sitting on that pesky Access Hollywood tape that ultimately made no difference at all to the people who wanted to vote for him.

Without going so far as to agree with the president's threat to NBC's license — my IQ is high enough to know how dumb that idea is, plus I love The Good Place and I enjoy the opportunity to watch football players respectfully protest on Sunday nights — I guess I feel like this may be the thing that brings us all together.

We've all been peacucked.