The Donald is at it again. Real estate magnate and reality TV show star Donald Trump announced yesterday that he is suing comedian and talk show host Bill Maher for $5 million dollars. Why? Maher jokingly asked Trump to prove via a birth certificate that he wasn’t fathered by an orangutan.
This was, of course, Maher’s take on Trump’s infamous “birther” challenge, in which Trump offered to donate $5 million to the charity of President Obama’s choice if he would show a birth certificate proving he was born in Hawaii. The President refused to engage and the whole thing blew over faster than Trump’s hair at the helipad.
Now Trump has risen to Maher’s bait, brandishing a birth certificate that lists his father as Fred Trump (not an orangutan). He announced the lawsuit to – where else? Fox & Friends, and – when else? Just as his reality show, The Apprentice, is starting another run. Trump says he’s going to donate the money to charity, and no, he didn’t think Maher’s comment was a joke. Maher’s Tweeted response: “What?? Really? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha,” endquote.
THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly Okay) for Donald Trump. This is just business as usual in his PR stunt-ridden world.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: The old saw about there being no such thing as bad publicity is a lie. Drumming up publicity for one’s TV show with a news-grabbing stunt is a wise move, but why always be the man we love to hate? Instead of humorlessly producing a birth certificate and ordering Maher to pay up, why not turn the joke to advantage by offering to donate the $5 million to the charity of Maher’s choice? Then Trump would have his publicity and appear to be the bigger man, and a generous one – as everyone knows he can afford to be. By doing it his way, Trump comes across as a bully and a blowhard. Well, at least he’s on brand.