Donald Trump Is Losing His Touch. So Is the TV Producer Who Shaped His Image.
But MGM never invested enough in Lightworkers to turn it into more than some scattered programming and a little-watched television channel, Light TV, showing family-friendly reruns. MGM’s biggest bet through Lightworkers, the $100 million 2016 film “Ben Hur,” lost money. Repeated promises of a high-powered streaming service never materialized.
Mr. Burnett’s relationship with Mr. Trump has also shadowed his run at MGM. He had long been part of a kind of media industry kitchen cabinet for the developer, along with CNN’s chief, Jeff Zucker, who had put “The Apprentice” on NBC, and the talent agent Ari Emmanuel. He and Ms. Downey had typically supported Democrats (Ms. Downey wrote a check to Marianne Williamson’s 2014 California congressional campaign), and he said in 2016 that he wasn’t actually supporting his friend’s White House bid.
But although Mr. Burnett promised associates that his friendship with the president would be great for business, he was also intensely sensitive to criticism of his old friend. He objected in particular, two people present at the time said, when an MGM board member, Jason Hirschhorn, began sharply criticizing Mr. Trump in his newsletter, REDEF in 2016. Katie Martin Kelley, MGM’s spokeswoman, said Mr. Hirschhorn’s “public statements at the time caused friction for many people at MGM,” and Mr. Hirschhorn, who left the board in 2017, declined to comment.
Since the 2016 election, Mr. Burnett has gone to great lengths to keep a public distance from Mr. Trump, batting away suggestions that he helped with ...
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