In the entertainment world, ratings are everything, and there’s no better way to amp up ratings than with a big publicity stunt. Recently, Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell have taken this mantra to a whole new level with their messy public feud. The only problem is that the feud, as it stands, is completely unnecessary.
O’Donnell debuted as a co-host on the View back in September, her arrival coinciding with an unprecedented jump in ratings for the daytime show. Ratings jumped a bit further as O’Donnell characteristically (and repeatedly) said stupid thingsÂ–accusing Regis & Kelly co-host Kelly Ripa of being a homophobe over her comments about Clay Aiken, and mocking spoken Chinese–all within a two-week span. Her wackiness has made her a ratings draw, as viewers tune in en masse to see what ignorance she’ll spew next.
Trump, on the other hand, has hit hard times in the television world. After the Apprentice debuted in 2004 as a ratings powerhouse on Thursday nights, subsequent editions of the show have slid in ratings. In fact, ratings were bad enough for NBC to boot Apprentice to Monday nights in favour of a revamped comedy line-up. The fifth edition of the show shed still more viewers, averaging less than half as many as the original. With the sixth edition on the way, something had to be done to salvage Trump’s sinking ship.
Enter Miss U.S.A. Tara Conner, whose booze-addled adventures became tales of urban legend in New York CityÂ–especially since she’s under 21. At a press conference in December, pageant owner Trump decided not to strip Conner of her crown, instead praising her for her decision to enter rehab. O’Donnell publicly criticized Trump’s decision on the View, likening him to a “snake-oil salesman” and attacking his personal life and business affairs. Trump responded with venom, calling her (amongst other things) a fat loser with a failed magazine and a failed television show. He also implied that not only was he considering suing O’Donnell for her inaccurate and slanderous comments, he was also planning to send a friend to romance away O’Donnell’s life partner. Right away, entertainment media ate it up. Unfortunately for Trump, it had little effect on the success of the Apprentice. Its ratings have actually dropped since last season, perhaps due to his antics.
Given Trump’s long affiliation with professional wrestling’s World Wrestling Entertainment, you’d expect he’d know how to script a feud better. While O’Donnell has faults (repeatedly making false statements about Trump doesn’t help) she’s undoubtedly come across as the more sympathetic of the pair. Calling Rosie O’Donnell a fat lesbian only induces sympathy and makes Trump look like a tactless asshole. The failure of the public feud may lead Trump to more drastic measures, as he’s rumoured to be appearing prominently in WWE in the spring in an attempt to draw more viewers to the Apprentice. While Trump has vehemently denied his feud with O’Donnell is staged, he might as well give that up if he shows up at WrestleMania. If he embraces the staged bravado of professional wrestling, perhaps his next feud will turn out better for him than this one has. After all, there’s money to be made in Trump challenging Paris Hilton to meet him in the ring live on WWE.