On Sunday night, a record number of people tuned in to NBC to watch two of the best quarterbacks ever — Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers — battle it out on Sunday Night Football.
But between downs, fans were forced to watch a different type of spectacle, when NBC decided to air Donald Trump’s virulently racist and factually inaccurate campaign ad during a commercial break.
On Monday morning, NBC joined Fox News, Facebook, and CNN, in announcing that, due to the “insensitive nature of the ad,” it would “cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible.”
But the damage has already been done. Sunday Night Football is one of the most-watched television programs each week it’s on. But this week in particular, thanks to the marquee match-up and a huge advertising campaign that included Michael Jordan, the game drew just under 18 million viewers — making it the highest-rated Week 9 game in SNF’s 13 years on NBC.
The ad features Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican man who returned to the United States without authorization after being deported, and was later convicted of killing two California police officers. Though Bracamontes was deported by Democratic President Bill Clinton and returned to the United States when Republican George W. Bush was in office, the ad accuses Democrats of allowing a cop killer into the country.
“Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay,” the ad falsely claims.
The ad then goes on to draw a direct comparison between Bracamontes and the migrant caravan of Central American asylum seekers that is currently in southern Mexico, and slowly en route to the United States. During the past week, Trump has relied heavily on immigration fear-mongering in an attempt to overshadow any other issues during the midterms, and as a tactic to scare his base into showing up at the polls to vote Republican.
The ad — which was produced directly for the Trump campaign, and tweeted by Trump himself — drew stark criticism by Democrats and Republicans alike from the moment it appeared online at the end of last week. CNN called the ad “the most racially charged national political ad in 30 years” and immediately vowed not to accept money to air it.
But apparently, NBC executives had no qualms leading up to Sunday night’s game; they happily accepted the check.
NBC has a rich history of enabling Trump, going back to his days as a reality television star. During his presidential campaign, they allowed him to host Saturday Night Live, and Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon gave Trump an incredibly fawning, soft-ball interview. Perhaps this is why it seems the NBC was the go-to network for those trying to get the ad airtime.
“People familiar with the matter told CNN that the advertisement was not submitted to either CBS or ABC,” CNN reported.
The ad reportedly ran about a dozen times on Fox News and Fox Business, multiple times on MSNBC, and in prime time on Sunday night before it was pulled. Fox has not provided a reason for pulling the ad, while NBC has expressed regret.
“We regret the decision that the ad ran at all,” a source told CNN, “and it will not air on any NBCUniversal property, locally or nationally.”
If only NBC had gained a conscience before showing racist propaganda to nearly 20 million Americans two days before a crucial election. According to Statista, NBC earned nearly $700,000 from that 30-second ad spot. Perhaps the network can use that money to buy a time machine?