PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NBC's entertainment chief said Wednesday he saw no contradiction in having Donald Trump host "Saturday Night Live" less than six months after the network severed its business ties with the GOP presidential front-runner for remarks about Mexican immigrants.
If the network never had guests who its executives disagreed with publicly, "we would be out of business," NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said.
The network in June cut ties with its former "Celebrity Apprentice" host and ended its joint venture with Trump to air the "Miss USA" and "Miss Universe" beauty pageants. But on Nov. 6, Trump hosted "SNL," earning the show's best ratings in two years as well as demands from other candidates that they get equal time.
"We're not in business with him, but love him or not, he's one of the most important political figures of our time," Greenblatt said.
When the network cut its ties with Trump in June, it never imagined he would have the political impact that he would have, he said. Not only did Trump shoot to the top of the polls, he became an instant television attraction that helped Republican debates reach record viewership levels and increase the ratings of most programs on which he appeared.
NBC specifically cited Trump's comments that Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some, I assume, are good people" in its June business decision. Trump made the remarks when he announced his presidential candidacy.
There's a difference between being in business with Trump and having him on shows like "Saturday Night Live" and "Meet the Press," Greenblatt said.
"I don't think the public was as confused as much as the press and some special interest groups," he said.
Trump appeared for just 11 minutes on the comedy show, which drew some rough reviews along with high ratings. It led five other Republican candidates to negotiate free time on NBC stations after they made complaints that they deserved equal time.