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In this new political-entertainment climate, it’s Six Degrees of Ari Emanuel.
The WME-IMG co-CEO met with President-elect Donald Trump, his former client, on Sunday in New Jersey. Although the agency declined to comment on the nature of their meeting, it is said that Emanuel was looking to discuss some of the early decisions facing Trump, such as cabinet appointments.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in June, Trump called Emanuel, who represented him on his Apprentice deals, “a very good friend” and said that they call one another a lot. What’s intriguing is that Emanuel is a Democrat, and his circle includes many of the most influential or politically outspoken figures in Hollywood and the media.
For one, Emanuel represents much of MSNBC’s bench, including Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell. The left-leaning cable news network will become the opposition voice to the new Republican-controlled government, but it’s unclear how much access any journalists will be given to the White House.
In a sit-down with more than a dozen executives and anchors from top TV news outlets on Monday, Trump excoriated the mainstream media in what a source told the New York Post was “like a f—ing firing squad.” Other journalists in Emanuel’s orbit include his client Scott Pelley of CBS News and friend Charlie Rose.
Emanuel, whose brother Rahm is the Democratic mayor of Chicago and President Barack Obama’s former White House chief of staff, also is point agent for outspoken liberal documentarian Michael Moore, whose election-timed release Michael Moore In TrumpLand was an earnest appeal on behalf of Hillary Clinton, although it carefully avoided directly criticizing Trump.
Emanuel’s other filmmaker clients are located all along the political spectrum. Michael Bay’s recent Benghazi actioner 13 Hours was marketed to conservatives and embraced by the Trump camp, although the director insisted the movie had “no political agenda.” Similarly, Pete Berg, who went to college with Emanuel and was an Obama supporter, said films of his like Lone Survivor and the upcoming Patriots Day are not political movies. More direct about his personal views was Aaron Sorkin, who in characteristic fashion did not mince words after Trump’s election, calling the president-elect “a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn.”
Of course, when you have a president-elect who for decades lived on the fringes of Hollywood as a pop-culture curiosity, there are bound to be multiple points of crossover. Emanuel represents Oprah Winfrey, whom Trump named as his ideal running mate in 1999 when he was contemplating a presidential run on the Reform party ticket (she endorsed Clinton in the 2016 election). Emanuel also works closely with clients and Clinton supporters Tyler Perry, whose Madea alter ego defiantly supported Clinton in a sketch on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Charlize Theron, whom the president-elect once rated as “a solid 7.”
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