Apparently, Seinfeld is not master of its own political domain.
In a Hollywood twist that is no doubt delightfully perverse for some and downright stomach-churning for others, part of the wealth that Donald Trump’s new campaign mastermind has amassed comes from revenue generated by Seinfeld reruns.
Steve Bannon, executive chairman of the ultra-right-wing Breitbart New, continues to collect rerun revenues from the TV classic starring comedian Jerry Seinfeld as part of a deal he cut when he was running a boutique investment bank in the 1990s, according to a profile in Bloomberg Businessweek last fall.
Earlier this week in a surprise shake-up, Trump made Bannon CEO of his campaign in what was seen as a demotion of Paul Manfort, the veteran political operative brought in to refocus the Republican nominee and bring discipline to his operation. This morning, Politico reported that Manafort has resigned.
It’s not like Trump and Seinfeld have nothing in common. They are both New York pop-culture icons. One stars perhaps the most wry comedian of his generation; the other is an apprentice comic who sometimes seems to be doing an impression of the late Sam Kinison. And a wag might say both Seinfeld and Trump are about nothing. What’s more, Trump and Jerry Seinfeld have been cordial in the past.
But no longer. They have been at war since 2011.
The feud began in 2010 when Seinfeld performed at the White House at an evening honoring Paul McCartney and apparently hit it off with President Obama. In the spring of 2011, when Trump was suggesting that Obama wasn’t born in the USA, Seinfeld took issue with the “birther” attacks and pulled out of a scheduled charity event being held the following September. The event hosted by the Eric Trump Foundation was a benefit for St. Jude’s Hospital.
In a letter to Seinfeld obtained by the New York Post, Trump wrote: “I just learned you canceled a show for my son’s charity because of the fact that I am being very aggressive with respect to President Obama, who is doing an absolutely terrible job as our leader.
“We don’t care that you broke your commitment,” he continued, “even though the children of St. Jude are very disappointed, and despite the fact that your manager clearly stated you are ‘truly a man of his word.’
“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 … Despite its poor ratings, I didn’t cancel on you like you canceled on my son and St. Jude. I only wish I did.”
A representative of the prescient Seinfeld told the Post that Jerry didn’t think “this kind of demagogy” belongs in public discourse and said he would make a contribution to St. Jude’s.
To make the bad blood even worse, last December Obama joined Jerry for the season premiere of Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The Daily Beast chuckled that it was Trump who brought them together.
Bannon, who is seen as a bomb-thrower like his new boss, has a considerable resume but has never overseen of a political campaign. But with Manafort gone, it should be easier for Bannon to let Trump be Trump.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.