• Politics

Both Sides Won When Donald Trump Was Fired

5 minute read

In the end, the draw of Donald Trump just wasn’t worth the headaches for the television networks. Many in the Republican Party wish they could fire The Donald just as easily.

NBCUniversal on Monday joined Univision in dropping its involvement with the fiery business mogul-turned-reality star-turned White House hopeful over comments he made about immigrants coming to the United States from Mexico. During his campaign launch, Trump said the Mexicans were rapists and criminals, although he added he was sure that some were fine individuals.

The backlash was swift. It was hardly one-sided. Yet, for the moment, it seems it has given both sides the wins they wanted.

The Spanish-language Univision last week broke off its broadcasting relationship with Trump’s beauty pageants. Univision then banned employees from staying at Trump properties while traveling on the company’s dime. That gave the advocacy-minded Univision added credibility with its deeply loyal and highly engaged viewers.

The blunt businessman promised to sue the broadcaster and banned Univision executives from golfing on his Miami Doral resort. He let loose a series of social media posts, interviews and statements designed to embarrass his one-time business and broadcast partner. That only further won him love from supporters, many of whom think his brash style would bring much-needed change to Washington.

Under growing pressure, NBC on Monday it was distancing itself from the Miss Universe Organization, a joint venture between NBCUniversal and Trump that produces Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA events. “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump,” the network said. For a broadcaster still dealing with the fallout of Brian Williams’ exit from the anchor desk amid criticism that he embellished stories, it was a decisive move aimed at avoiding another headache.

Trump used Monday’s setback to yet again promote himself—and took a dig at the Williams imbroglio. “They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be,” Trump said in a statement.

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That personal kind of attack is a Trump signature. Earlier, Trump took to Instagram as he sought to paint himself as the victim of political correctness run amok. On the popular photo-sharing website and app, he posted an image of a hand-written note from popular Univision anchor Jorge Ramos requesting an interview even after his network cut business ties. Trump’s picture of the note captured Ramos’ personal cellular phone number. Trump later followed up with a tweet: “Please send me your new number, your old one’s not working. Sincerely, Donald J. Trump.”

Republicans were left shaking their heads. Here was a figure whose hair was a punchline and who hosted a reality show in which his signature line was “You’re fired.” (NBC and Trump both agreed he would not appear on the upcoming season of “The Apprentice” if he moved forward with a White House run.) Yet he is still polling ahead of all other rivals except former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in two New Hampshire surveys. If the polls stay where they are, Trump could be on-stage when the GOP field meets for its first debate in Cleveland in August—while sitting Senators, Governors and former CEOs are left out. Where other candidates would have shown contrition or tried to move on, here was Trump continuing to trumpet his opposition to Mexican immigrants.

MORE: The GOP’s First Big 2016 Test: Fitting Candidates on the Debate Stage

Then again, Trump is not the typical candidate. His antics drew this headline on the conservative Breitbart.com: “Dear GOP: Trump’s Fearless War With Univision Only Increases His Appeal.”

The whole affair began at Trump’s campaign kickoff last week at his gold-plated, 68-story Trump Tower in New York. During the course of a speech that seldom resembled the prepared text, he vowed to crack down on China and Saudi Arabia, mocked President Obama and proved why Trump is among the most entertaining figures on television. But his comments on immigrants coming from Mexico were the ones that left many—Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike—smarting. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Trump said.

It led to quick reaction. Univision’s head of entertainment programs posted a picture of Trump side-by-side with the man accused of killing nine churchgoers in an historically black church in Charleston, S.C. Alberto Ciurana deleted the posting but not before conservatives captured it and shared it around the Internet. To Trump’s fervent supporters they found it unconscionable that Trump was being compared to someone being described as a white supremacist who sought to start a race war.

Ciruana said he should not have posted the photograph. “Apology not accepted,” Trump said in a statement. “I call for his resignation as president of Univision.”

Trump promised the photo post would be part of his ever-growing lawsuit against Univision—as he made his way through interviews with conservative news organizations such as Fox News and The Daily Caller. “Univision apologized to me but I will not accept their apology. I will be suing them for a lot of money,” he wrote on Twitter.

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Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com