Donald Trump‘s “Rosebud” may be an Emmy.
The real estate magnate turned presidential candidate has been a voting member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences since June 2004, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The current GOP frontrunner has never publicly acknowledged his association with the group, which continues to this day, even while repeatedly savaging its awards show in interviews and on social media.
How did Trump, who had never previously worked in television, come to be a part of the Emmys-bestowing organization so quickly in the first place?
He joined in June 2004, just six months after his NBC reality show The Apprentice first went on the air, and just three months before it lost the outstanding reality-competition series prize at the Emmys for the first of two times — to Trump’s everlasting fury.
“Networks sign up every potential eligible member [so that they are then able] to vote on their own shows,” a veteran TV exec explained to THR. Whether or not Trump loyally voted the party line for the Peacock Network’s slate — or voted at all — is not known.
But what is a certainty is that he has coveted an Emmy for years and has been bitter about not winning one.
“I got screwed out of an Emmy,” Trump said of the 2004 telecast during an Apprentice episode that aired more than a decade later, on Jan. 19, 2015. “Everybody thought I was gonna win it. In fact, when they announced the winner, I stood up before the winner was announced. And I started walking for the Emmy. And then they announced the most boring show on television, [CBS’] The Amazing Race. Piece of crap.”
In 2005, The Apprentice was nominated again. Trump again flew out from New York to Los Angeles — not only to attend the Sept. 18, 2005, ceremony, but also to perform at it. As an homage to the then-burgeoning Fox reality show American Idol, the telecast’s producers decided to invite an assortment of TV personalities to perform famous TV theme songs between awards, calling it “Emmy Idol.” Trump accepted and was paired with Will & Grace‘s Megan Mullally for “Green Acres,” which he gamely — if not mellifluously — performed while wearing overalls and a straw farmer’s hat and holding a pitchfork. Later that evening, he learned he had lost — again to The Amazing Race.
Over the ensuing years, The Apprentice failed to secure any further Emmy nominations, while The Amazing Race continued to dominate the category in which Apprentice had hoped to compete (winning from 2003 through 2009, 2011 through 2012 and again in 2014) — and Trump, egged on by his social media followers, became a ruthless critic of the telecast. “It’s a shame that Amazing Race keeps winning, because it doesn’t deserve to win,” Trump told THR in 2010. “It wins every year because they know how to politic the Emmys.” He continued: “Instead of shows that deserve to win, they pick Amazing Race. It’s a very sad commentary … it’s a joke. If the Emmys want their ratings back, they have to pick shows that deserve it.'”
Trump further expanded on his feelings one week before the 2011 Emmys, in a Sept. 16 video on his YouTube vlog. “Fewer and fewer people watch the Emmys each year, and for good reason,” he asserted. “They’re just not doing a good job. As an example, they choose the wrong shows … it’s really not a good operation. They don’t have it.”
In the same video, Trump called The Amazing Race “an irrelevant show,” while insisting that his issues with the Emmys do not stem from personal frustration. “I’m not talking about myself, I’m not talking about The Apprentice, I’m just saying the Emmys have become a boring, boring show, totally predictable, and they’re picking the wrong people and they’re picking the wrong shows.” He added of the telecast: “I’d love to see it mean something again, but like I won’t be watching, many other people won’t be watching. So they have to straighten themselves out.”
Apparently Trump did watch the 2012 Emmys, because on Sept. 24, the day after they aired, he tweeted, “The Emmys were horrendous…the absolute worst show!” and “‘Amazing Race’ winning an Emmy again is a total joke. The Emmys have no credibility—no wonder the ratings are at record lows.” and “The Emmys are all politics, that’s why, despite nominations, The Apprentice never won—even though it should have many times over.” The ceremony was still on his mind the following day when he added, “Emmys telecast is way down & lowest telecast on record among young adults. Emmys have no credibility-Should have nominated Apprentice again!” And a week later, he revisited the subject yet again: “Lots of people agree that the Emmys were a joke—got bad ratings—no credibility!”
In 2013, Trump not only watched the Emmys telecast, but live-tweeted it. In response to a follower’s tweet that Celebrity Apprentice, Trump’s spinoff of the original show, should have been nominated, he replied, “Pure politics.” And a little later in the evening he added, “The Emmys are sooooo boring! Terrible show. I’m going to watch football! I already know the winners. Good night.”
Trump didn’t wait until the night of the 2014 Emmys to start ranting. A half-year before they aired, on the night of the Oscars telecast, March 2, he tweeted, “Which is worse and which is more dishonest – the #Oscars or the Emmys?” By the time the latter rolled around again in August, he seemed to have made up his mind, retweeting two sycophantic Twitter followers’ messages on the night of the telecast. The first argued, “Emmys are a joke. the donald needs to fix them like he did with the Miss Universe pageant.” And the second opined “Seth Meyers lame ‘act’ proving @realDonaldTrump correct; #Emmys are almost unwatchable.”
Trump continued to host The Apprentice until June 2015, at which point he and NBC parted ways. NBC says it severed ties with him because of comments that he made about undocumented immigrants, while Trump insists that he had already informed NBC of his plans to leave the show in order to focus on his presidential run, which he announced on June 16. (“NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct — that is why our country is in serious trouble,” he stated in an Instagram post, adding, “They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like is, as unpleasant as that may be.”)
Meanwhile, at the Emmys three months later, on Sept. 20 (the first show in years that Trump did not tweet about), the tables turned on him: he was pilloried by host Andy Samberg in his opening monologue; Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her acceptance speech; and Key and Peele in their presentation of the reality-competition award.
This year, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, Trump has to say about the Emmy nominations (which were announced Thursday) and the telecast itself (Sept. 18). While he is not, of course, in the running for The Apprentice, he could have been a contender for best guest actor in a comedy series for NBC’s Saturday Night Live, which he hosted on Nov. 7 — but the network opted not to submit his name for consideration, even though it entered 11 other hosts in the competition. That cannot have made him happy.
Trump has still factored into the current Emmy race in strange ways. Fox’s Family Guy campaign mailer that went out to voters — presumably including Trump — featured the animated show’s main protagonist, Peter Griffin, coiffed like Trump and proclaiming, “As long as we’re voting for dumb loudmouths, can I get an Emmy?” (See below.) And the Emmy ballot includes several listings of Funny or Die’s Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie, a parody film in which Johnny Depp skewers Trump, which was eligible for outstanding TV movie and outstanding actor in a limited series or TV movie (Depp), among other prizes.
So what to make of Trump’s contentious history with the Emmys? His supporters would probably argue that his version of The Apprentice, with its huge (yuge?) ratings, was repeatedly snubbed solely because his politics do not align with those of most of Hollywood’s limousine liberals. His opponents, however, would probably counter that the show was, like so many of Trump’s endeavors, just a mindless vehicle for his own self-promotion, and that, in response to its underwhelming Emmys showings, he behaved like a sore loser, hell-bent on disparaging the organization — to which he still belongs — for not embracing his show..