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Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Makes A Lot of Money Off of ‘Seinfeld’
Stephen Bannon, who’s produced right-wing propaganda docs, also used to front a company that owned a big chunk of several sitcoms—including Seinfeld.
“It’s going to be the campaign about nothing,” he predicted.
Today, Cuban’s mocking comment takes on an entirely different meaning.
On Wednesday morning, the Trump campaign officially backbenched its “chairman,” Paul Manafort, in a coup that brought two others to power: Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon. (The decision was made because Trump had reportedly begun to feel too “boxed in” and “controlled” by Manafort.)
Bannon, executive chairman of the relentlessly pro-Trump Breitbart who was just installed as Team Trump’s “chief executive,” has a long, colorful résumé. He served as a naval officer, worked as a Goldman Sachs investment banker, and coasted through Hollywood as an unabashedly right-wing filmmaker, eventually helming a critically maligned documentary about why Sarah Palin is so great.
He has also managed to amass considerable personal wealth—and a lot of that money comes from the hit NBC sitcom Seinfeld.
Seriously. If you enjoy Seinfeld reruns, you are technically helping to enrich a man who was just appointed as chief of Trump’s presidential campaign, and here’s why.
After Bannon left Goldman Sachs, he founded his own firm, called Bannon & Co., in 1990. In his time at his eponymous firm, he negotiated the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment to Ted Turner. Because Seinfeld was produced by Castle Rock, the deal made Bannon a sudden stakeholder in the TV series, which at the time was not the incredibly popular moneymaker we know of today. Royalties from the show, and its reruns in syndication, have helped keep Bannon rich, and has funded parts of his projects and operations.
“We calculated what [Seinfeld] would get us if it made it to syndication,” Bannon told Bloomberg Businessweek last year. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
The former Seinfeld writers contacted by The Daily Beast on Wednesday afternoon were not eager to comment on the news of Bannon’s new gig, nor did they seem pleased. “Jesus. No comment,” one texted.
But there is at least one member of the Seinfeld crew who has gone on record with his distaste for The Donald: Jerry Seinfeld himself.
In June 2010, Seinfeld—a small-time Democratic donor—performed a set in the White House’s East Room during an event honoring Paul McCartney. The two enjoyed a mutual admiration for each other, but it wasn’t until the following year that the comedian chose to publicly defend the president. In 2011, Trump was on his birther kick, going so far as to claim that he sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to get to the bottom of the Obama birth certificate drama. (Spoiler: Obama is American.)
Seinfeld was not amused by the racist-conspiracy-theory-mongering, so in April 2011 he pulled out of a scheduled gig at a charity benefit hosted by Trump’s son. (Seinfeld’s manager told CNN at the time that the comedian felt that “this kind of demagoguery has no place in public discourse,” and that he planned to make a charitable contribution in lieu of stand-up comedy.)
Trump fired back at the comic with a spiteful and very, very Trumpian letter.
“I just learned you canceled a show for my son’s charity, The Eric Trump Foundation, which benefits the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital because of the fact that you think I am being very aggressive with respect to President Obama, who is doing an absolutely terrible job as our leader—just look at Libya, our economy, gas, food, and clothing prices and maybe you will understand what is going on!” Trump wrote.
“What I do feel badly about is that I agreed to do, and did, your failed show, The Marriage Ref, even though I thought it was absolutely terrible,” he vented. “Despite its poor ratings, I didn’t cancel on you like you canceled on my son and St. Jude. I only wish I did.”
Trump had previously called the failed show “funny” and educational, not terrible.
And in a weird wrinkle of fate, Trump’s long-running personal history with Seinfeld continues, this time in the form of the combative political operative who is now set to mastermind the rest of his national fight against Hillary Clinton.
“There’s a revolt going on in this country, and the old paradigm—controlled and financed by a collection from the Party of Davos—is cratering,” Bannon told The Daily Beast late last year. “There’s a tsunami of rage from populist conservatives.”