They’ve got history: A timeline of Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again relationship with NBC

It’s complicated.
It’s complicated.
Image: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
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What follows is a complete account of the 28-year relationship between US presidential candidate Donald Trump and the American broadcast network NBC.

Trump and NBC meet, hit it off

1988: Donald Trump, real estate mogul, is lampooned by NBC variety sketch show Saturday Night Live for the first of what will be several times over the years. Phil Hartman plays Trump in a bit called “A Trump Christmas.”

1996: Trump buys the Miss Universe Organization, which includes the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe pageants. Since 1960, the pageants had been broadcast on CBS.

2002: Unhappy with CBS, Trump moves the pageants to NBC. The network buys a 50% stake in the Miss Universe Organization, and airs the pageants every year until 2015.

The two get really close

2004: NBC premieres The Apprentice, a reality TV show hosted and co-produced by Trump, and created by Survivor producer Mark Burnett. The show is nominated for eight Emmy awards between 2004 and 2006, but does not win any. Its first season finale is watched by 28 million Americans. Trump is paid $1 million per episode.

Trump trademarks his catchphrase: “You’re fired.”

Trump hosts Saturday Night Live and appears in a sketch with Seth Meyers, a comedian who goes on to host the talk show Late Night with Seth Meyers. Ten years later Trump will say Meyers is “very awkward with almost no talent.”

2005: Trump is recorded making sexually predatory comments aboard a bus prior to appearing on an episode of NBC celebrity gossip show Access Hollywood. The recordings are not unearthed and made public for another 11 years.

2007: NBC releases a primetime schedule that notably does not include The Apprentice. Burnett threatens that he’ll take the show to another network if NBC does not renew it. Trump says he’s “moving on” from the show. Neither happens—NBC renews the show for another season.

2008: The Apprentice spawns a spin-off, The Celebrity Apprentice, also hosted by Trump and produced by Burnett.

2009: Trump appears on WWE Raw, aired on NBCUniversal’s USA Network, as part of a storyline in which he “buys” the fake wrestling TV series.

Things fall apart

2011: Some publicly call for NBC to fire Trump after he begins peddling the racist conspiracy theory that US president Barack Obama was not actually born in the United States. The Apprentice‘s ratings decline, perhaps because of Trump’s increasingly political aspirations. NBC does not fire Trump.

Trump attends the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, hosted by comedian Seth Meyers. Trump is roasted by president Barack Obama and by Seth Meyers, which apparently infuriated him.

Trump phones into MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown (video) and lectures host Chuck Todd. “I’m doing NBC by going onto your show,” Trump says.

2013: NBC entertainment boss Robert Greenblatt defends Trump, saying the celebrity is entitled to his personal politics so long as they are not hurtful or “cross a line.”

Greenblatt jokingly says that NBC talked Trump out of running for president in 2012.

2014: Upon hearing that Meyers will host the Emmys, Trump tweets that Meyers, a fellow NBC employee, is “very awkward with almost no talent.”

2015: Trump announced that he will run for president in 2016. In his announcement, Trump calls Mexicans “criminals” and “rapists.”

It finally happens. NBC ends all its business dealings with Trump because of his inflammatory statements. The network announces that Trump will no longer host The Apprentice and the network will stop airing Trump’s pageants.

Trump buys NBC’s half of the Miss Universe Organization and settles his lawsuits against the network. A few days later, Trump sells the company to the talent agency WME/IMG.

And yet, in November of 2015, Trump hosts Saturday Night Live for a second time. It was one of the worst episodes in the show’s history.

2016: Now the Republican nominee for president (against Democrat Hillary Clinton), Trump goes on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and has his hair tousled (video).

Meanwhile, Seth Meyers thoroughly dismantles Trump and the birther movement in a series of widely shared clips from his show Late Night (which airs on NBC after Fallon).

Trump takes part in an NBC presidential forum moderated by Matt Lauer, who is roundly derided for his softball questions and fails to ask Trump about his criticism of the Muslim parents of a fallen US solider—despite the forum’s focus on veterans’ issues.

Trump attacks NBC News’s Lester Holt, the moderator of the first presidential debate. Trump accuses Holt of being a Democrat, despite the newsman being a registered Republican.

Alec Baldwin performs a spot-on impression of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

Irreconcilable differences

2016: The Washington Post reports on a leaked video showing Trump having an extremely lewd conversation about women with Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush in 2005.

NBC lost its scoop to the newspaper, reportedly because it delayed airing the video while executives mulled whether they’d be liable in any lawsuits. In the meantime, the video was leaked to Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold.

A report in BuzzFeed reports that Burnett has threatened to sue any staffers from The Apprentice who leak damaging unaired footage of a candid Trump making offensive comments, which may or may not exist in his show’s archives.

Burnett denounces Trump and denies the BuzzFeed report.

Women come forward accusing Trump of sexual misconduct. NBC says it will air an episode of Law & Order: SVU about a presidential candidate who faces “damaging accusations” by several women.

This long, tumultuous relationship may still have more chapters.