Monkey Biz: How Trump's PR strategy inoculates him from ridicule
A comedian appears on a TV talk show and challenges you to provide documentation to prove your parents are not orangutangs, vowing to fork over $5 million in cash for the evidence. You comply, sending him copies of birth certificates that attest your lineage is indeed of human origin and you include an invoice for the $5 million.
You never get the cash. Can the comedian be legally compelled to cough up the dough?
Only if you live in Donald Trump World, a region of the universe where no amount of bad publicity, PR gone haywire and public ridicule and scorn will have a deliterious effect on one's image or reputation. In Trump World you can say nutty things, attach yourself to wacky causes and issues, and extoll a point of view normally reserved for the mentally challenged and still enjoy celebrity, success and even an enthusiastic following from a significant number of admirers - however clouded their faculties may be.
In Trump World you can effortlessly maintain a straight face while presenting the most bogus theories and fanciful premises. Members of the news media, political and entertainment establishments will actually treat you with courtesy and respect as you foam at the mouth with bizzare allusions and ignorant rantings.
Such is life in Trump World.
The most recent episode occurred this week when The Donald announced he was filing a lawsuit against comedian Bill Maher for refusing to come up with the $5 million for Trump's proof that he was sired by humans and not chimps. Trump took to the airwaves yesterday and claimed his attorneys have told him he has a good legal case against Maher. After first delivering the "exclusive" news of his lawsuit to his friends at "Fox and Friends" Trump took to an equally serious forum, the Howard Stern Show, and actually tried to convince listeners that he was on strong legal standing. "Lawyers aren't going to file a case when they're going to have problems," Trump said. (No, Donald, no lawyer would simply take your money for this case.)
Moreover, Trump contended Maher has essentially conceded the point by being relatively silent on the legal action. "He's actually made no comment. So what happened is he went to see a lawyer and his lawyer said 'You got a problem, and I don't want you commenting.'"
Actually Maher did comment rather appropriately on Twitter: "What?? Really? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha"
Now, I'm not a lawyer (sorry mom) but I'm sure there's no legally binding contract that can be enforced for Maher's "offer." There's no slander either, since Trump is a public figure subject to all kinds of lampooning. (And despite the "proof" Trump allegedly provided, truth still might be Maher's defense).
But none of it matters because Trump merely illustrates to an annoying degree the cultish level of celebrity to which we have descended; where if you're famous enough - and you only have to be famous for being famous - rich enough or flamboyant enough, the world will provide you a platform and an audience will take you serously. No amount of bad PR will push people like Trump off this track. We're stuck with him, unfortunately.
Maher should have challenged Trump to prove that his tax returns weren't prepared by monkeys for the $5 million prize. That's an offer Trump would most definitely refuse.